Oct 31 05 by Published in: Interviews No comments yet

For poet Galway Kinnell it’s about writing the authentic.

He casts his unwavering eye to the world, telling the truth clearly and lyrically with an elegance and precision of language that is both raw and stunning.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning author doesn’t hesitate to crawl inside the body of a bear, praise the loveliness of a sow, ruminate on the persistence of a fly.

For Kinnell “the connection with other creatures is important” in his work.

“We’re all children of the earth,” he says, yet there’s an important difference.

“Why are we the ones destroying it while they’re diligently trying to keep it going.”

It’s understanding this penchant for destruction that gives him the most trouble as a writer.

“It’s extremely hard to write a war poem,” he says, confessing that he’s been trying to write about the Iraq war. “There are not really a lot that succeed.”

But where he does succeed masterfully is finding the universal moments in what’s deeply personal: the rapture in the birth of a child, the primal longing in the death of a mother, the elemental hunger for a lover.

What makes a poem succeed is purely subjective and ever changing, says Kinnell, whose own works range from the solemn and sacred to the sly and irreverent.
”Tomorrow I might read a poem that shocks me with its beauty that I didn’t see the night before.”

In his own work, a poem needs time and space to gestate after the initial impulse.

“If I can let a month or two go by and still find it interesting, that there’s some strange force to it, then I can finally get somewhere, so I begin to revise,” he says, admitting that sometimes he’s still revising years later.

Presently he’s “working pretty hard” in the process of putting together a new book of poems.

“There are poems that I’ve attempted and failed at,” he admits. “And there are times, it’s rare, when a poem unexpectedly just comes; something that you could never do intentionally what the moment tells you to do.”

Kinnell, who enjoys giving readings of his work, will be honored at Elizabethtown College Leffler Chapel Thursday evening, returning to the campus after nine years.

“I’m always happy to give a reading where an audience is sophisticated and inspiring,” he says. “When an audience is capable of listening hard and understanding, it makes one want to read harder.”

The reading, which is free and open to the public, will feature work from his latest collection, “A New Selected Poems,” as well as “some new love poems.”

“Love is very successful,” he says.

A former MacArthur fellow, Kinnell has won numerous awards, not only for his own 45-year career as a poet, but for his translations as well.

Retired from teaching, he makes his home in Vermont, where he was honored as the State Poet for many years.


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