Maxine Kumin (1926–2014)


From Janet Burroway, editor of A Story Larger than My Own:

We were shocked to learn of the death of Maxine Kumin, who in spite of a serious horse-riding accident, a year spent immobile in a metal “halo,” and permanent pain, continued to write fine poetry and prose and to exude essential vitality.

Kumin at 88 was what Carol Muske-Dukes calls the last member of the “august sisterhood of poets,” which included Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Adrienne Rich.

In one of her last published essays, Kumin traced her journey in “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness,” a kind of template for the writers in this book and for women of her generation, who began their careers in the fifties or early sixties and grew in stature as feminism grew. “I did not yet know that a quiet revolution in thinking was taking place,” she writes of her situation as a pregnant mother of two in 1956. “Of course motherhood was not enough. Perhaps I could become a literary critic?” She did that and much more.

An excerpt from “Metamorphosis: From Light Verse to the Poetry of Witness”:

Hoping to find direction, I subscribed to the Writer, a Boston magazine. There I found my destiny in an advertisement for Richard Armour’s Writing Light Verse, $3.95. I would begin there and if I hadn’t published anything by the time this baby was born, I would turn my back on the Muse forever. My first ever four-liner appeared in the Christian Science Monitor in March of that year. When the check for five dollars came, I had recovered my investment in Armour’s book, and had broken into print with this:

 There never blows so red the rose,

So sound the round tomato

As March’s catalogues disclose

And yearly I fall prey to.

To read more about A Story Larger than My Own, click here.