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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poetry Friday--Remembering Galway Kinnell

Galway Kinnell, a poet from the neighboring state of Vermont, died on Tuesday. The New York Times said that Kinnell wrote
verses that, as he said, could be understood without a graduate degree. He succeeded well enough that all of the volumes of poems he published from 1960 to 2008--evocations of urban streetscapes, pastoral odes, meditations on mortality and frank explorations of sex--are still in print.

He had an admirable goal--to have his work appreciated by the average person. I also know, from having heard him speak at the Dodge Festival a few years ago, that learning poetry by heart was something he did well, and something he thought we all should do. My memorization skills are minimal, but it would be a way to honor his memory if I attempted to memorize one of his poems. Maybe this perfect little one?

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it as slowly
as the actual stars cross heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and, as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity they sank down
into the mud; they faded down
into it and lay still; and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.

From Galway Kinnell: Selected Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 1982 [811 KIN].

It's also Halloween today, so I imagine there's lots of holiday poetry and fun taking place at TeacherDance where the Poetry Friday Round-Up is happening.

Photo by Eli Duke.


  1. To know such a thing happened then to write about it is quite wonderful, isn't it? Thanks, Diane.

    1. Indeed! Don't you love this line,
      and, as if they had simply
      increased their receptivity
      to gravity they sank down
      into the mud

  2. I really enjoyed reading Kinnell's When One Has Lived A Long Time Alone. He was a brilliant poet.
    Thanks, Diane.

  3. When I saw him in 2010, he struck me as a nice person, too.

  4. Anonymous1:16 PM

    Beautiful. I read about his death. Sharing his work is such a nice way to honor his memory and writing.

  5. Lovely, Diane, thanks. I had heard earlier this week that he passed away. May he rest in peace.

  6. Nice tribute, Diane...a sad loss for poetry.

  7. Ooh, that's lovely. We heard both him and his wife read a few years ago. I haven't read much of his work at all, but I really like this. "as though the mud were a sky" So unexpected. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Beautiful, Diane. Thank you.

  9. Thank you everyone for your comments. There are quite a number of videos of him reading his poems on YouTube. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon.

  10. Appreciating this post, Diane. I am an average person from an average family & felt fortunate to find him through a recommendation. I treasure GALWAY KINNELL: Selected Poems", especially one about a bear that is such vividing writing, I can smell the rank odor of the animal in question. Thank you for reminding me that I should continue what my Mom began in childhood, which was to teach me to memorize poems.