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Posts Tagged ‘Philip Levine’

Galway Kinnell, 1927–2014

October 30, 2014 | by

kinnell

Photo via GalwayKinnell.com

Galway Kinnell, who aspired to a poetics that “could be understood without a graduate degree,” died on Tuesday in Vermont, at eighty-seven. A winner of both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, Kinnell wrote poems that “dwell on the ugly as fully, as far and as long as I could stomach it,” as he once told the Los Angeles Times. “I think if you are ever going to find any kind of truth to poetry it has to be based on all of experience rather than on a narrow segment of cheerful events.”

Tony Hoagland said that Kinnell’s primary subjects were “mortality, erotic love, and creatureness.” That might make him sound solemn, But Kinnell, who was born in Rhode Island, could also be exceptionally warm, especially when his subject was New England. An obituary by the Associated Press quotes Major Jackson, who included Kinnell among “the great quintessential poets of his generation”:

In my mind he comes behind that other great New England poet Robert Frost in his ability to write about, not only the landscape of New England, but also its people … Without any great effort it was almost as if the people and the land were one and he acknowledged what I like to call a romantic consciousness.

It would be hard to overstate the effect of Kinnell’s poems on the form at large. “I don’t think Galway Kinnell influenced me, but what’s more important, he inspired me,” Philip Levine said in his Art of Poetry interview:

When I read his great poem “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World,” I said, My God, this is how good the poetry of my generation can be. I can remember exactly where I was when I first read it, on the second floor of the library in an armchair holding The Hudson Review and shivering with excitement.

The Review published Kinnell’s poems throughout his career; his work first appeared in our Spring 1965 issue. We’ve made available one of those earlier poems, “On the Frozen Field,” which begins:

We walk across the snow,
The stars can be faint,
The moon can be eating itself out,
There can be meteors flaring to death on earth,
The Northern Lights can bloom and seethe
And be tearing themselves apart all night,
We walk arm in arm, and we are happy.

You can also read “The Geese,” from our Summer 1985 issue, and “Lackawanna,” from Fall 1994. But best of all is “Another Night in the Ruins,” which Kinnell read at a Review salon in 2001; you can hear the recording here.

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Helpless: On the Poetry of Neil Young

October 23, 2012 | by

There was a fascinating if incomplete musing on the New Yorker website this week regarding Neil Young’s insularity and on the incomprehensible idea that he never reads. It seemed strange that someone who doesn't read would decide to write a book, though it’s often true that writing and reading aren’t necessarily two sides of the same coin. They are often very different coins, operating in very different currencies. When you go to a bank to make change, the exchange rate is never in your favor.

I forwarded the piece to my friend Bill Flicker, out in Los Angeles, who wrote back that he never listens to Neil Young’s words, that they are simply placeholders or crumbs that are scattered on a walk through a musical forest. Actually, I do listen to his words. Not always. But when I listen, they’re remarkably visual and evocative:

Blue blue windows behind the stars.
Yellow moon on the rise.
Purple words on a grey background
To be a woman and to be turned down

How did those windows get behind the stars? I don’t know, but I can see them clearly. Sometimes as a child's drawing. Sometimes as a reflection on an airplane window. There may not be logic involved, but there is something deeper than that. Read More »

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On the Shelf

August 10, 2011 | by

A cultural news roundup.

  • Philip Levine is America’s new poet laureate.
  • Save the Words is dedicated to bringing underutilized vocabulary back into circulation. A locupletative goal!
  • The Popeye Cookbook is, not shockingly, heavy on the spinach.
  • Bienvenue en France, Google Books!
  • An unlikely hit: The Waste Land app earns back its costs in a mere six weeks.
  • “I think it’s one of those things where you’re standing in a room, and you’re like, ‘Let’s make a new food magazine.’ And that’s a terrible idea. The world does not need a new food magazine ... But if it’s such a bad idea that you can do a good version of it, then that’s a cool challenge.”
  • An Edinburgh marathon reading of Theresa Breslin’s Prisoner in Alcatraz attempts to break the world reading record.
  • Signs of a publishing rebound?
  • John Burnside on researching a book: “I went for a walk in the Arctic Circle without map or compass. Fortunately, I was only lost for hours, not days.”
  • Watch Britten’s Turn of the Screw, live.
  • There was something a bit Wellsian about photographs of riots and looting across London this weekend. Pictures of burning shops and broken windows and young men confronting uniformed police included crowdsourced images snatched by witnesses in the rapid, unexpected diffusion of trouble. The most dramatic, of Tottenham on fire and the blackened aftermath, are positively apocalyptic. To me, it all seems uncanny and reminiscent of late Victorian science fiction. Even the place names have that quality of ordinariness that Wells exploits in his fantasy of a London apocalypse: Tottenham in flames, insurrection in Enfield, anarchy in Leyton and Islington ...”
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