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Poetics. In her essays, as with her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Mazine Kumin speaks to "the encounter": with poetry, poets, and the details of country life. In clear, direct prose she 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 inseperable from daily life. "The prose is h Poetics. In her essays, as with her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Mazine Kumin speaks to "the encounter": with poetry, poets, and the details of country life. In clear, direct prose she 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 inseperable from daily life. "The prose is highly readable, full of humor and insight, and each essay brims with a kind of grace. Highly recommended" -- Library Journal.


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Poetics. In her essays, as with her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Mazine Kumin speaks to "the encounter": with poetry, poets, and the details of country life. In clear, direct prose she 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 inseperable from daily life. "The prose is h Poetics. In her essays, as with her Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry, Mazine Kumin speaks to "the encounter": with poetry, poets, and the details of country life. In clear, direct prose she 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 inseperable from daily life. "The prose is highly readable, full of humor and insight, and each essay brims with a kind of grace. Highly recommended" -- Library Journal.

41 review for Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry

  1. 4 out of 5

    Rick

    When Maxine Kumin died earlier in February at the age of 88, I pulled two books of her prose off my shelves, one I thought I’d read and the other I knew I had not. I’m not sure why I turned to prose for such a well-regarded poet but I did. In any case, I thought I’d browse through one and then read the other. Always Beginning, the one I had thought I read was published in 2000 and it was nestled in my read poetry section. Quickly I realized that the book has been misfiled. I didn’t recognize the When Maxine Kumin died earlier in February at the age of 88, I pulled two books of her prose off my shelves, one I thought I’d read and the other I knew I had not. I’m not sure why I turned to prose for such a well-regarded poet but I did. In any case, I thought I’d browse through one and then read the other. Always Beginning, the one I had thought I read was published in 2000 and it was nestled in my read poetry section. Quickly I realized that the book has been misfiled. I didn’t recognize the journal entries that comprise Part One or the autobiographical essays that made up Part Two. They were sharp and engaging and certainly memorable. So I read on. Next was a small section of short, insightful reviews, some essays on poetic craft, three lectures, and an interview. (It’s a structure that the other book, To Make a Prairie, published in 1979, also followed but in loosely reverse order—starting with interviews and ending with journal entries.) Always Beginning, a title lifted from a Rilke quote that serves as the book’s motto (“If the angel deigns to come, it will be because you have convinced him, not by tears, but by your humble resolve to be always beginning.”), is an accurate thematic statement for the essay collection. Kumin is thoughtful about her passions (poetry, family, friendship, swimming, horses, gardening) and all have a cycle of beginning, always beginning, to them. Having now read the earlier book, it should be noted there is a strong consistency of theme and topic (and, in one instance, a replication of essay, a succinct commentary on Frost’s poem “Provide, Provide.”) Kumin believed poetry is generally a kind of elegy (regardless of kind of poem), an exploration of loss. She believed that, for her, formalist structures created a space and put demands that enabled her to write about things that would otherwise have been too painful or personal. Her long professional and personal friendship with Anne Sexton was one of the great gifts life gave her. Auden was the poet who most influenced her own writing. She grew up living and working in suburban and urban areas (Philadelphia and Boston) but found herself better grounded for life and work in rural New Hampshire and became, in the same sense as Frost or Donald Hall, a nature poet. She believes in the power of the workshop—she has taught them and found her way back into poetry in one (where she also met Sexton) after an unfortunate experience with a teacher who dismissed her early work with the harsh comment, “Say it with flowers but for God’s sake don’t write poems about it.” (This incident gets mentioned in both books but the perpetrator only gets named here, Wallace Stegner, alas.) Kumin is fascinating on all these themes and topics, a frank and observant writer, curious how things work (or don’t), including her own poems, those of others, the human body through water, the human will through experience, plants and animals through all their stages.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jean

    I came to this memoir, or maybe more properly “mostly thoughts on how I write poetry book” curious because I knew Maxine Kumin was a good friend of Anne Sexton and also not far removed from Carolyn Heilbrun, Jane Kenyon, and May Sarton. Plus, she is a swimmer and a horse lover. If you’re not a fan of these authors and you don’t care for things like epiphanies round the birth of a foal, you may not like this book as much as I did. I did like it, and found it loaded with pithy wisdom. If you’re an I came to this memoir, or maybe more properly “mostly thoughts on how I write poetry book” curious because I knew Maxine Kumin was a good friend of Anne Sexton and also not far removed from Carolyn Heilbrun, Jane Kenyon, and May Sarton. Plus, she is a swimmer and a horse lover. If you’re not a fan of these authors and you don’t care for things like epiphanies round the birth of a foal, you may not like this book as much as I did. I did like it, and found it loaded with pithy wisdom. If you’re an aspiring poet, I think it would be particularly worthwhile,

  3. 5 out of 5

    Joanna

    A collection of odds and ends, compiled in a book. Kumin's essays on the intersections between poetry and life are interesting and instructive. She discusses at some length her friendship with Anne Sexton, and the post-WWII acceptance of female poets into the poetry establishment, at which she and Sexton were the helm. What I found most helpful, as a dabbler in poetry myself, was her discussion of and insistance on formal poetics: rhyme, meter, rhythm, etc. A collection of odds and ends, compiled in a book. Kumin's essays on the intersections between poetry and life are interesting and instructive. She discusses at some length her friendship with Anne Sexton, and the post-WWII acceptance of female poets into the poetry establishment, at which she and Sexton were the helm. What I found most helpful, as a dabbler in poetry myself, was her discussion of and insistance on formal poetics: rhyme, meter, rhythm, etc.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Shaindel

    I love these essays on life and poetics by Maxine Kumin. Some of the best essays were prefaced by a poem and then dealt with how Kumin wrote the poem, what inspired it, or what she would have changed in the poem if she had written it as a more mature poet. There are also keynote addresses that she delivered for various occasions, and a lengthy personal interview. Just a great book with a wealth of knowledge and inspiration!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ron Mohring

    Part memoir, part interviews, part essays on poetics and on the writings of others, this is a fine, intelligent collection from a writer whose steady and sustained focus can't be overestimated, in my opinion. Part memoir, part interviews, part essays on poetics and on the writings of others, this is a fine, intelligent collection from a writer whose steady and sustained focus can't be overestimated, in my opinion.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Loved this collection of Kumin essays.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Jenni

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joshi Radin

  9. 5 out of 5

    Lacie

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ann Lun

  11. 5 out of 5

    Meliss

  12. 5 out of 5

    Dsg

  13. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn O

  14. 4 out of 5

    K.T.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Marina Sofia

  16. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  17. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

  18. 4 out of 5

    Monster

  19. 4 out of 5

    Nina Shevchuk-Murray

  20. 5 out of 5

    Mary Louise

  21. 4 out of 5

    Deborah San Gabriel

  22. 5 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    811.54 K9641ab 2000

  23. 4 out of 5

    Annie Mcwilliams

  24. 4 out of 5

    Ellie O'Leary

  25. 4 out of 5

    Rebekah

  26. 5 out of 5

    Chuck Denison

  27. 5 out of 5

    Tara Betts

  28. 5 out of 5

    Marian

  29. 4 out of 5

    Dottie

  30. 5 out of 5

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    R.H.

  32. 4 out of 5

    F. Rzicznek

  33. 5 out of 5

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  37. 4 out of 5

    Marianna

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    Jess

  39. 5 out of 5

    Luciana

  40. 4 out of 5

    Rory

  41. 4 out of 5

    Doni

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