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Conversations with Stanley Kunitz

Kent P. Ljungquist

Publication Year: 2013

"He again tops the crowd--he surpasses himself, the old iron brought to the white heat of simplicity." That's what Robert Lowell said of the poetry of Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006) and his evolving artistry. The interviews and conversations contained in this volume derive from four decades of Kunitz's distinguished career. They touch on aesthetic motifs in his poetry, the roots of his work, his friendships in the sister arts of painting and sculpture, his interactions with Lowell and Theodore Roethke, and his comments on a host of poets: John Keats, Walt Whitman, Randall Jarrell, Wallace Stevens, and Anna Akhmatova.

Kunitz emerged from a mid-sized industrial town in central Massachusetts, surviving family tragedy and a sense of personal isolation and loneliness, to become an eloquent spokesman for poetry and for the power of the human imagination. Kunitz has commented, "If we want to know what it felt like to be alive at any given moment in the long odyssey of the race, it is to poetry we must turn." His own odyssey from "metaphysical loneliness" to a sense of community with fellow writers and artists--by building institutions like Poets House and the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts--is ever present in these interviews.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Series: Literary Conversations Series

Title Page, Copyright, Further Reading

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xix

Stanley Kunitz, the public voice for poetry, certainly became more widely known to a general audience via a conversation with Bill Moyers, “Dancing at the Edge of the Road,” part of a series on the Public Broadcasting System in 1989. The title of Moyers’s program was drawn from Kunitz’s “An Old...


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pp. xx

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Pulitzer Prize Poet Stanley Kunitz Started Career in Worcester

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pp. 3-7

Stanley Kunitz, a native of Worcester, was mentioned as the most underrated poet of today in a special supplement of the London Times on “The American Imagination,” published November 8, 1959, this in spite of the fact that he had just won the Pulitzer Prize for his Selected Poems, as the best book of poetry published in 1958. He was described as “the poet’s poet” in an...

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Communication and Communion: A Dialogue between Stanley Kunitz and Allen Tate

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pp. 8-19

In the spring of 1966, because poets were persistently complaining that poetry was badly taught, the Academy of American Poets and Stanley Kunitz organized, in conjunction with the New York City Board of Education, a series of weekly dialogues between Mr. Kunitz and twelve American poets...

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The Poet in the Classroom

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pp. 20-28

Recently while on a lecture tour of some eastern colleges, Stanley Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, stopped at Franklin and Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. As an instructor in the English Department, I naturally looked forward to his visit. Since I was then teaching a course in the analysis of poems, I mimeographed Mr. Kunitz’s “Green Ways” and passed...

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Presenting the Poet: Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 29-38

A poet who stands as “an anomalous figure” in American literature, Stanley Kunitz, born in 1905 in the industrial city of Worcester, Massachusetts, belongs to the fertile generation that lies between the old masters—Eliot, Frost, Stevens, and Pound—and today’s poets, such as Lowell and Berryman. He attended public schools in Worcester, and then graduated from...

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An Interview with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 39-44

The following interview with Stanley Kunitz was held on a sunny November afternoon in his delightful brownstone in New York City’s Greenwich Village. There is, as readers of Mr. Kunitz’s poetry might expect, a veritable forest of greenery within and without his attractive living room. The walls...

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Stanley Kunitz on “The Science of the Night”

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pp. 45-49

Stanley Kunitz, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet who is this year’s Poetry Consultant at the Library of Congress, gave a reading of his poems on the “Writers Here & Now” series on November 19, 1974. After the reading, Adele Slaughter conducted the following interview with Mr. Kunitz...

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Interview with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 50-56

Columbia: We’re interested in your thoughts about young poets today. You seem so involved in what young poets are doing.
Kunitz: Why not? I feel more compatible with them than with the generation I was born into. The imagination lives by its changes and is always looking for a home. Perhaps the writers I feel closest to are those who remind...

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Poetry in the Classroom: A Symposium with Marvin Bell, Donald Hall, and Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 57-75

The following is a transcript of the soundtrack from a videotape recording made during a symposium held in the Robins Center, University of Richmond, in Virginia. This symposium, entitled “The Continuing Revolution in American Poetry,” was only one of the events during the Tucker-Boatwright...

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Stanley Kunitz: Action and Incantation

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pp. 76-89

Harvey Gross: I am speaking with Stanley Kunitz in the garden of his Greenwich Village house. Our particular subject is prosody; however, I expect that we shall be ranging over a wider area: the whole craft of writing poetry. To begin: a question on the use of the word prosody. Among theoreticians especially there is an ongoing dispute about the terminological...

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An Interview with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 90-92

The poetry festival honored Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Stanley Kunitz who, at age seventy-five, serves as adjunct professor of writing at the Columbia University Graduate School of the Arts, Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress, and editor of the Yale Series of Younger Poets. A Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Harvard University, Mr. Kunitz has been awarded...

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Stanley Kunitz on the Labyrinth of Forms and the Turning of Worms

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pp. 93-98

When Rose Slivka invited me to do a series of interviews for Craft International which addresses the theme of tradition, value, and form, I chose people in the New York area who were familiar to me through our mutual involvement with books—poet Stanley Kunitz, with whom we proudly...

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A Dialogue with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 99-114

How does a poet like Stanley Kunitz, the strong gentle voice of American poetry, achieve that self-effacing quality which distinguishes him from several of his contemporaries? That was the main question in my mind, as I tried to seek an appointment with him after my arrival from India. The first...

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Interview: Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 115-122

Stanley Kunitz, a Pulitzer Prize–winning poet, is a tall, thin, white-haired gentleman. This summer he will turn seventy-seven. The following interview was conducted in his Greenwich Village apartment, on a sunny Saturday afternoon, surrounded by his paintings, antiques, and plants...

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An Interview with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 123-138

Stanley Kunitz, who will turn eighty-seven on July 29, 1992, is the reigning dean of American poets. Not only is he still writing, but he is writing as well today as he ever has, as is evident from poems he has published recently.
With his wife Elise Asher, Stanley Kunitz spends his winters in New York City and his summers in Provincetown; his flower garden is both one of his great...

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Stanley Kunitz: An Interview

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pp. 139-154

The following interview with Stanley Kunitz is the outcome of two conversations taped at his New York City apartment. The first took place on the afternoon of November 26, 1991, the second on the evening of March 24, 1993. The first session focused almost entirely on the poet’s early years: The aim here was to identify and describe the personal and social contexts that...

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Stanley Kunitz: “The Gifts of the Heart Are Always Added to Our Store”

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pp. 155-164

Christopher Busa: After going to two of your readings in the last few months, in Provincetown and New York, I noticed that both times you read “An Old Cracked Tune.” Is that poem now part of your repertoire?
Stanley Kunitz: Yes...

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An Interview with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 165-177

On November 22, 1993, Stanley Kunitz visited Orange County Community College, Middletown, New York. During the afternoon he conducted a question and answer session with students and later presented a formal reading to the college community. Earlier that day the editors conducted an interview with Kunitz...

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An Interview with Stanley Kunitz

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pp. 178-187

Like William Blake, Stanley Kunitz glorifies the role of the poet in the modern world. In our interview, I began by quoting his statement to Bill Moyers that “poetry is the most difficult, the most solitary, and the most life-enhancing thing that one can do in the world.” When I asked him to elaborate, he replied, “The experience of love and the creative act are the supreme...

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Openhearted: Stanley Kunitz and Mark Wunderlich in Conversation

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pp. 188-193

Wunderlich: I’d like to begin with our location and ask you how you became a resident of Provincetown. What was it that drew you here?
Kunitz: From my early years, when I experienced a certain loneliness at the thought of becoming a poet in this culture, I have been driven to search for a community in which I could feel at home. There are other factors involved...

The Productions of Time: Kunitz on Blake

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pp. 194-216


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pp. 217-226

E-ISBN-13: 9781617038709
E-ISBN-10: 1621039706
Print-ISBN-13: 9781621039709

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Literary Conversations Series

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Subject Headings

  • Poets, American -- 20th century -- Interviews
  • Kunitz, Stanley, 1905-2006 -- Interviews.
  • Poetry -- Authorship.
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