Friday, May 19, 2006

Au Revoir, Stanley Kunitz

"Death and life are inextricably bound to each other. One of my feelings about working the land is that I am celebrating a ritual of death and resurrection."
Stanley Kunitz

It's a tough thing to wake up one morning and find that the one hundred-year-old mainstay of American poetry has died. Stanley Kunitz was a founder and great supporter of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, a place where I have completed several writing workshops. The common room is named after him. He had a house in P-town, where he spent a great deal of time in his beloved garden. I heard that if you walked to his place to say hello, he would greet you kindly and with no pretension. I wish now I had mustered the chutzpah to do it last year, when I had the chance.

In tribute to this great poet, I'm posting a poem from his 1930 collection called Intellectual Things. Au revoir, Mr. Kunitz. See you on the other side, where we poets will gather to drink good wine, talk of love and beauty, and laugh at all our former confusion.

Deciduous Branch

Winter, that coils in the thickets now,
Will glide from the fields; the swinging rain
Be knotted with flowers; on every bough
A bird will meditate again.

Lord, in the night if I should die,
Who entertained your thrilling worm,
Corruption wastes more than the eye
Can pick from the perfect form.

I lie awake, hearing the drip
Upon my sill; thinking, the sun
Has not been promised; we who strip
Summer to seed shall be undone.

Now, while the antler of the eaves
Liquefies, drop by drop, I brood
On a Christian thing: unless the leaves
Perish, the tree is not renewed.

If all our perishable stuff
Be nourished to its rot, we clean
Our trunk of death, and in our tough
And final growth are evergreen.

Stanley Kunitz

Photo found at


JerseyTjej said...

just stopping by...what a beautiful tribute.

MB said...

Oh, Amy. Lovely. Thank you. He will be missed, yes he will.

bluepaul said...

(FREE-TUNES):at my [non-profit] website:

ericlow said...

i liked his poetic voice when i was much younger and had just started reading poetry. sigh...

Anonymous said...

This is truly beautiful. I had no idea he was 100.

Amy said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks for stopping by to spend a little time remembering Mr. Kunitz.

Crywolf: It's tough when the poets who first taught us to love poetry pass on. It reminds us of our own aging process, too.

Paul: Bite me.