Stanley Kunitz will be 100 years old on July 29, and he is still tending to his garden in Provincetown, Massachusetts. He is also still writing poetry. In The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden, his newest book, he tells about his life with nature and gardening and how his poetry draws from these sources. Accompanying the reflections are several of his poems and a collection of photographs of Kunitz by Marnie Crawford Samuelson.
Like Frederick Law Olmstead, Kunitz avoids splashy color in his gardens. He is more interested in shapes, textures, and space, wanting to create quiet living places for meditation. To him, plants are not finished once the flowers are spent. His interests are more long-term. His poetry also is not finished. It is deliberately mysterious, giving readers room for thought and speculation.
Like most serious poets, Kunitz reflects on death. A conversation between Genine Lentine and the poet in a hospital at a time when he was near death is included, as is his poem “The Long Boat.” He observes what a terribly crowded place earth would be if all generations were still living, not surrendering power to the young, yet he is reluctant to depart.
I recommend The Wild Braid as an easy introduction to the poetry of Stanley Kunitz.
Kunitz, Stanley, with Genine Lentine. The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden. New York: Norton, 2005. ISBN 0393061418