Cover image for Always beginning : essays on a life in poetry
Always beginning : essays on a life in poetry
Kumin, Maxine, 1925-2014.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Port Townsend, Wash. : Copper Canyon Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xi, 237 pages ; 23 cm
Personal Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS3521.U638 Z463 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



In her essays, as with her Pultizer Prize-winning poetry, Maxine Kumin is equally at ease musing over her garden or discussing poetic form, raising horses or critiquing the work of other poets. For Kumin, poetry is inseparable from daily life. Whether remembering the early days of courtship with her husband (who then worked at Los Alamos during the first nuclear tests) or observing a grandchild learning to swim, poetry is a natural part of the discussion, as when, during an MRI, she recounts the healing role of memorized poems: "Lying in my MRI tomb and doggedly reciting the poem against the terrible rapping, I realized what saved me..." "Maxine Kumin's practical yet sensual New England reflections are a gift to any lover of the country."-New York Times Book Review "Kumin, bless her heart, just gets better and better."-Library Journal In addition to twelve volumes of poetry, Maxine Kumin has published books of essays, short stories, and novels, and collaborated on four children's books with the late Anne Sexton. The recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, she has also served as the Poet Laureate and was, until her recent controversial resignation, a chancellor at the Academy of American Poets. She lives with her husband, Victor, on a farm in central New Hampshire. Table of Contents Part One Excerpts from a June Journal Beans June 1, 1991: Sleeping Late June 16, 1991: Final Foal Journal Entry, PoBiz, Texas Notes from My Journal, Kyoto, December 1984 Part Two Interstices Swimming and Writing Motherhood and Poetics October 4, 1995 For Anne at Passover Recitations First Loves Part Three An Appreciation of Marianne Moore's Selected Letters This Curious Silent Unrepresented Life Josephine Jacobsen Back to the Fairground: Mona Van Duyn A Postcard from the Volcano Essay on Robert Frost Part Four Trochee, Trimeter, and the MRI: On A Shropshire Lad Gymnastics: The Villanelle A Way of Staying Sane Word for Word: "Poem for My Son" Scrubbed Up and Sent to School Part Five Keynote Address, PEN-New Eng

Author Notes

Maxine Kumin was born in Philadelphia in 1925. She received a BA and a MA from Radcliffe College. In the 1950s, she enrolled in a poetry writing course at the Boston Center for Adult Education. The course led to the publication of poems in Harper's and The New Yorker. Her first collection of poems, Halfway, was published in 1961. Her other poetry collections include Where I Live: New and Selected Poems 1990-2010, Still to Mow, and And Short the Season. She received several awards including the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, the Robert Frost Medal, and the Pulitzer Prize for Up Country: Poems of New England. She also wrote four novels, short stories, a memoir entitled Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery, essay collections, and children's books. She died of natural causes on February 6, 2014 at the age of 88.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Pulitzer Prize^-winning poet Kumin reflects on the profound role poetry has played in her life both before and after she suffered a catastrophic accident. The opening scene in Always Beginning, Kumin's graceful and resonant essay collection, provides a perfect emblem for the symbiotic nature of her writing and farming lives. Copies of the New York Times Book Review, she explains, are the perfect size for "papering and mulching" her corn rows. This give-and-take between literature and her other more earthly involvements shapes each pristine and magnetic essay, whether she's describing how swimming inspires her poetry, or recounting the early years of her marriage, her delight in her children, the birth of a foal, or the beauty of plants. Kumin also eloquently recounts her 17-year friendship with Anne Sexton, and her struggle over the years to write in the "interstices of time" between all her other endeavors. A lifelong athlete, Kumin took up carriage-driving when she was in her seventies, and it was during a rehearsal for a competitive driving event that her frightened horse bolted, causing an accident that broke Kumin's neck and nearly ended her life. Unable to move her limbs, Kumin was screwed into a torturous, birdcage-like apparatus called a halo and set on the excruciating path back to mobility. Inside the Halo and Beyond describes her physical and emotional ordeal with restraint and an almost clinical objectivity, an approach that throws her terror into stark relief. But Kumin's stoicism is no pose, and what emerges is her extraordinary discipline, devotion to the muse, and love for her family. Clearly, her miraculous recovery is the fruit of a life well-lived, in which her soulful involvement with so many nourishing passions gave Kumin the strength to mend her cracked vertebrate without the aid of surgery and to get back to doing all that sustains her, including writing about her experiences to give others hope. --Donna Seaman

Library Journal Review

Kumin concludes her essay "Swimming and Writing" with advice from master poet Rilke: "Keep holy all that befalls." In this wonderful miscellany, Kumin weaves together all the disparate elements of her life, and, yes, she makes them holy. As a writer, Kumin wears many hats: A Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who has written novels and essays, she recently wrote a mystery (Quit Monks or Die!, LJ 7/99). Her latest work begins up close and personal with a series of journal entries. In one, she recounts a late night spent midwifing a foal in her New Hampshire barn; in another, she is left shaken after an airplane accident while en route to Japan. More than the in-depth look at the poetic life promised by the title, this memoir also offers an intriguing look at modern country life, shares Kumin's experiences of being both a mother and an artist, and delves into the her deep 18-year friendship with Anne Sexton. Also included are several poems with Kumin's own discussions on form and content. The prose is highly readable, full of humor and insight, and each essay brims with a kind of grace. Highly recommended for all collections.DDoris Lynch, Monroe Cty. P.L., Bloomington, IN (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Maxine KuminWallace StevensA.E. HousmanElizabeth BishopMaxine KuminMaxine KuminMaxine Kumin
Part 1 Excerpts from a June Journalp. 5
Beansp. 11
June 1, 1991: Sleeping Latep. 15
June 16, 1991: Final Foalp. 17
Journal Entry, PoBiz, Texasp. 21
Notes from My Journal, Kyoto, December 1984p. 25
Part 2 Intersticesp. 29
Swimming and Writingp. 39
Motherhood and Poeticsp. 47
October 4, 1995p. 57
For Anne at Passoverp. 71
Recitationsp. 77
First Lovesp. 85
Part 3 An Appreciation of Marianne Moore's Selected Lettersp. 89
This Curious Silent Unrepresented Lifep. 97
Josephine Jacobsenp. 101
Back to the Fairground: Mona Van Duynp. 109
A Postcard from the Volcanop. 113
Essay on Robert Frostp. 115
Part 4 Trochee, Trimeter, and the MRI: On A Shropshire Ladp. 123
Gymnastics: The Villanellep. 133
A Way of Staying Sanep. 141
Word for Word: "Poem for My Son"p. 149
Scrubbed Up and Sent to Schoolp. 153
Part 5 Keynote Address, PEN-New England, April 11, 1999p. 163
Premonitory Shiverp. 169
Two Junesp. 187
Part 6 Interviewp. 195
About the Authorp. 237
For Anne at Passoverp. 65
A Postcard from the Volcanop. 112
XXVIIp. 121
One Artp. 130
The Nuns of Childhood: Two Viewsp. 131
At a Private Showing in 1982p. 137
Poem for My Sonp. 147