The poet Stanley Kunitz died earlier this month at his home in Manhattan at the age of 100. Kunitz, a Pulitzer Prize winner and former poet laureate, was, as his New York Times obituary calls him, "one of the most acclaimed and durable American poets of the last century." Kunitz was born in Worcester, Mass., in 1905 and never knew his father, a struggling dress manufacturer who killed himself six weeks before the birth of his first son. In this clip (1:13, MP3) from the Salon audio archive, Kunitz reads "The Portrait." In the poem, a young Kunitz discovers a portrait of his father in the attic and brings it down to his mother, who never forgave her husband's suicide.
In "The Old Darned Man," (5:44, MP3) also from the Salon archive, Kunitz tells of the appearance of a wandering tinker at his home in Connecticut where he lived with his first wife during the Depression. And in "The Quarrel," (1:10, MP3) Kunitz speaks of his own grave as:
"that bought-and-paid-for lot
on a salt-sprayed hill in Truro
where the scrub pines
overlook the bay"
Truro, on Cape Cod in Massachusetts, is a few miles south of Provincetown, where Kunitz spent his summers gardening and where he founded the Fine Arts Work Center. In this interview (7:21, Real Audio) with Robert Siegel for NPR's "All Things Considered" from March of 2001, Kunitz describes his writing method as a deliberate effort "to get the rhythm to roll." Kunitz wrote his poems on a Hermes typewriter to the very end. "I tried it," he tells Siegel of writing on a word processor. "It didn't work for me. I felt too much mechanical intervention. I like the transference from the body because I believe the poem is born of the wisdom of the body. And I like to have as much body involved in the poem as possible."
-- Ira Boudway