Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Jack and Other New Poems by Maxine Kumin

I remember when I knew very little about poetry, which was not that long ago. What I had learned in high school and college literature classes was a faded memory. Now I have been working my way through the poetry collection at my library and am starting to recognize poets' voices and have favorites. One of my favorites is Maxine Kumin. She writes in a forthright manner, economically descriptive, provocative. Her poems seem like letters from a close friend.

In Jack and Other New Poems, Kumin writes from rural New Hampshire where winter is coming, the redpolls are intimidating the chickadees, old farm animals are dying, friends are in hospice care, and the poet is unhappy with the war. As always, I have favorite poems in the collection:

"Widow and Dog," which is about a woman who opens her windows through the summer letting nature inside,

"Magda of Hospice House," which ponders the care of the dying and the identify of the caregiver,

"Seven Caveats in May," in which the poet tries to keep her dog away from a bear,

"Broody," about preparing for the death of a dearly loved old horse, and

"Which One," about the American obsession with terrorism.

Kumin was Consultant in Poetry at the Library of Congress before the position of Poet Laureate was founded. She has also won a Pulitzer Prize for poetry. Jack and Other New Poems and her other collections belong in most public libraries.

Kumin, Maxine. Jack and Other New Poems. New York: Norton, 2005. ISBN 0393059561

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