NYS Writers Institute, March 15, 2005
Her many honors and awards include the Pulitzer Prize for the collection, "Up Country" (1972), the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Excellence in Literature, the Levison Award and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
In July of 1998, at the age 73, Kumin was critically injured in a horse carriage accident, and was expected to die of her injuries. Her survival is the subject of her 2000 memoir, "Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery."
"This book, while telling of a most personal catastrophe, ties us continually to the natural world that is the center of this author's life and work…. [Kumin] resonates wisdom while announcing a triumph of body and soul." - Anne Roiphe, "New York Times"
Born in 1925, Kumin began writing and publishing in midlife, as the married mother of three children. Kumin's poetry is openly autobiographical, and often concerns the experience of being a mother.
"No poet writes more richly and more subtly of mother-daughter relations."
Critics have also remarked on Kumin's unsentimental relationship to nature as a hardworking breeder of Arabian and quarter horses.
"In an unforgiving environment, Kumin neither flinches at the strenuous physical labors that comprise her usual responsibilities, nor quails before her emotional disappointments…. Her poetry records how she stands up to the disasters of weather, disease, difficult births and lamentable deaths, and how she's confident she'll remain standing until the very end." - Brad Crenshaw, in "Parnassus"
Kumin's newest collection is "Jack and Other New Poems" (2005), which features reflections on death, the body, beloved animals, politics, and the nature of memory. The collection is named for one of the poet's beloved horses, whom she "sold down the river" much to her later guilt and regret. The "Library Journal" reviewer said, "Measured but warm, this work draws you in; it is another success among her many titles."
Other recent poetry collections include "Bringing Together: Uncollected Early Poems, 1958-88" (2003) and "The Long Marriage" (2001), the first volume to be published after her accident. Dedicated to her husband Victor, whom she married in 1946, "The Long Marriage" explores themes of loyalty, longevity, recovery, love, poetry, and nature.
"'The Long Marriage' could possibly be Kumin's best book of poems. Poetry doesn't get much better than this." - Henry Taylor, in the "Washington Times"
A new collection, "Mites to Mastodons: A Book of Animal Poems, Small and Large" is due to be published in 2006. Kumin is also the author of six novels, including the 1999 mystery novel, "Quit Monks or Die!" and 22 children's books, four of which she wrote with her friend, the late poet Anne Sexton.
Maxine Kumin has served as Poetry Consultant to the Library of Congress (1981-82), and Poet Laureate of the State of New Hampshire (1989-94).
For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at http://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.