Kinnell, Galway 1927-

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KINNELL, Galway 1927-

PERSONAL: Born February 1, 1927, in Providence RI; son of James Scott and Elizabeth (Mills) Kinnell; married Ines Delgado de Torres; children: Maud, Fergus, Natasha. Education: Princeton University, A.B. (summa cum laude), 1948; University of Rochester, M.A., 1949.

ADDRESSES: Home—Sheffield, VT 05866; 432 Hudson St., New York, NY 10014. Office—New York University, Department of English, New York, NY 10003.

CAREER: Poet and translator, 1949—. Alfred University, Alfred, NY, instructor in English, 1949-51; University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, supervisor of liberal arts program at downtown campus, 1951-55; University of Grenoble, Grenoble, France, American lecturer, 1956-57; University of Nice, Nice, France, lecturer in summer session, 1957; University of Iran, Teheran, Iran, Fulbright lecturer, 1959-60; Columbia University, New York, NY, adjunct associate professor, 1972, adjunct professor, 1974, 1976; University of Hawaii at Manoa, Honolulu, Citizens' Professor, 1979-81; New York University, New York, NY, director of writing program, 1981-84, Samuel F. B. Morse Professor of Arts and Sciences, Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing. Poet-in-residence, Juniata College, 1964; Reed College, 1966-67; Colorado State University, 1968; University of Washington, 1968; University of California—Irvine, 1968-69; University of Iowa, 1970; and Holy Cross College, 1977. Resident writer, Deya Institute (Mallorca, Spain), 1969-70. Visiting professor, Queens College of the City University of New York, 1971; Pittsburgh Poetry Forum, 1971; Brandeis University, 1974; Skidmore College, 1975; and University of Delaware, 1978. Visiting poet, Sarah Lawrence College, 1972-78; Princeton University, 1976; and University of Hawaii. Visiting writer, Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia), 1979. Director, Squaw Valley Community of Writers, 1979—. Field worker for Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), 1963. Recorded poetry to sound and video cassette, including Galway Kinnell Reading His Poems with Comment in New York City (audio cassette), 1959; Poetry Breaks I, Galway Kinnell, (video cassette), 1988; and Galway Kinnell and Sharon Olds Reading Their Poems in the Montpelier Room (audio cassette), 1996. Chancellor, Academy of American Poets, 2001—. Advisory Board Member, Red Hen Press (Granada Hills, CA). Military service: U.S. Navy, 1944-46.

MEMBER: PEN, National Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, Corporation of Yaddo.

AWARDS, HONORS: Ford grant, 1955; Fulbright scholarship, 1955-56; Guggenheim fellowships, 1961-62, 1974-75; National Institute of Arts and Letters grant, 1962; Longview Foundation award, 1962; Rockefeller Foundation grants, 1962-63, 1968; Bess Hokin Prize, 1965, and Eunice Tietjens Prize, 1966, both from Poetry magazine; Cecil Hemley Poetry Prize from Ohio University Press, 1968, for translation of Yves Bonnefoy's work; special mention by judges of National Book Awards for poetry, 1969, for Body Rags; Ingram Merrill Foundation award, 1969; Amy Lowell traveling fellowship, 1969-70; National Endowment for the Arts grant, 1969-70; Brandeis University Creative Arts Award, 1969; Shelley Prize, Poetry Society of America, 1974; Medal of Merit, National Institute of Arts and Letters, 1975; London Translation Prize, 1979; National Book Award for poetry (co-recipient) and Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, both 1983, both for Selected Poems; National Book Award for poetry finalist, 1996, for Imperfect Thirst; MacArthur fellow, 1984; National Book Critics Circle Award, 1986, for The Past; appointed Vermont State Poet, 1989-93.



What a Kingdom It Was, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1960, revised, 2002.

Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1964, revised, 2002.

Body Rags (also see below), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1968.

Poems of Night, Rapp & Carroll (London, England), 1968.

The Hen Flower, Scepter Press (Frensham, England), 1969.

First Poems: 1946-1954, Perishable Press (Mt. Horeb, WI), 1970.

The Shoes of Wandering, Perishable Press (Mt. Horeb, WI), 1971.

The Book of Nightmares, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1971.

The Avenue bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World: Poems 1946-1964, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1974, revised, 2002.

St. Francis and the Snow, Ravine Press (Chicago, IL), 1976.

Three Poems, Phoenix Book Shop (New York, NY), 1976.

Fergus Falling, Janus Press (Newark, VT), 1979.

There Are Things I Tell to No One (single poem), Nadja (New York, NY), 1979.

Two Poems, Janus Press (Newark, VT), 1979.

Mortal Acts, Mortal Words (also see below), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1980.

The Last Hiding Place of Snow, Red Ozier (New York, NY), 1980.

Selected Poems, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1982.

The Fundamental Project of Technology (single poem; also see below), Ewert (Concord, NH), 1983.

The Geese, Janus Press (Newark, VT), 1985.

The Seekonk Woods, with photographs by Lotte Jacobi, Janus Press (Newark, VT), 1985.

The Past (includes The Fundamental Project of Technology; also see below), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1985.

When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone, Knopf (New York, NY), 1990.

Three Books (includes Body Rags, Mortal Acts, Mortal Words, and The Past, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1993.

Imperfect Thirst, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1994.

A New Selected Poems, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2001.

Also author of poem When the Towers Fell, 2002; poems have been anthologized in Contemporary American Poetry, Penguin (New York, NY), 1962; Where Is Vietnam?: American Poets Respond, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1967; Scott Walker, editor, Buying Time, Graywolf Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1985; Robert Hass, editor, Best American Poetry of 2001, Scribner (New York, NY), 2001; and Pocket Book of Modern Verse. Contributor of poetry to numerous journals and periodicals, including New Yorker, Hudson Review, Poetry, Nation, Choice, Harper's, and New World Writing.


Rene Hardy, Bitter Victory, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1956.

Henri Lehmann, Pre-Columbian Ceramics, Viking (New York, NY), 1962.

The Poems of François Villon, New American Library (New York, NY), 1965, new edition, University Press of New England (Hanover, NH), 1982.

Yves Bonnefoy, On the Motion and Immobility of Douve, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1968, reprinted, Bloodaxe Books (Newcastle upon Tyne, England), 1992.

Yvan Goll, Lackawanna Elegy, Sumac Press, 1970.

(With Richard Revear) Yves Bonnefoy, Early Poems, Ohio University Press (Athens, OH), 1991.

(With Hannah Liebmann) Rainer Maria Rilke, The Essential Rilke, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1999.


Thoughts Occasioned by the Most Insignificant of All Human Events (essay; first published in Pleasures of Learning, 1958), Ewert (Concord, NH), 1982.

Black Light (novel), Houghton (Boston, MA), 1966, revised edition, North Point Press (San Francisco, CA), 1980.

The Poetics of the Physical World (lecture), Colorado State University, 1969.

Walking down the Stairs: Selections from Interviews, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1978.

How the Alligator Missed Breakfast (juvenile), illustrated by Lynn Munsinger, Houghton (Boston, MA), 1982.

Remarks on Accepting the American Book Award, Ewert (Concord, NH), 1984.

(Author of postscript) Paul Zweig, Eternity's Woods, Wesleyan University Press (Middletown, CT), 1985.

(Editor and author of introduction) Walt Whitman, The Essential Whitman, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1987.

Poetry Breaks I, Galway Kinnell, (video reading), Leita Hagemann and WGBH Educational Foundation (Boston, MA), 1988.

SIDELIGHTS: Galway Kinnell is an award-winning poet whose work over four decades has sought to establish the significance of life through daily human experience: the poetic, the cosmic, the social, the cultural, and the individual. New York Times Book Review essayist Morris Dickstein called Kinnell "one of the true master poets of his generation and a writer whose career exemplifies some of what is best in contemporary poetry." Dickstein added: "There are few others writing today in whose work we feel so strongly the full human presence." Robert Langbaum observed in the American Poetry Review that Kinnell, "at a time when so many poets are content to be skillful and trivial, speaks with a big voice about the whole of life." As Al Haley noted of Kinnell on the Abiline University Web site, "His poetry is understandable, and at the same time amazingly lyrical, energetic, and inventive. He has lived long enough to have produced a significant body of work that makes a lasting contribution to American poetry."

According to Charles Frazier in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Kinnell's poetry "has been devoted to a remarkably consistent, though by no means limited, range of concerns. The subjects and themes to which he has returned again and again are the relation of the self to violence, transience, and death; the power of wilderness and wildness; and the primitive underpinnings of existence that are disguised by the superstructure of civilization. Kinnell's approach to these topics is by way of an intense concentration on physical objects, on the constant impingement of the other-than-human on our lives." Hudson Review contributor Vernon Young wrote: "By turn and with level facility, Kinnell is a poet of the landscape, a poet of soliloquy, a poet of the city's underside and a poet who speaks for thieves, pushcart vendors and lumberjacks with an unforced simulation of the vernacular."

The theme of death's inevitability permeates Kinnell's poetry as he seeks to derive understanding of the total life experience. To Charles Molesworth, writing in Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, Kinnell's early poems "revolved around questions of suffering and death, using an essentially religious consciousness to question the human condition. Yet the religious fervor of the poetry never inhibited a full acceptance of the secular notions of pleasure and joy." Frazier contended that much of the poet's work "is a ritual filled with the dual awareness of the regrettability and the necessity of death." Kinnell's verse is sometimes harsh and violent—and sometimes bleak—but at the core is the notion that, as death looms, one must live with great intensity. Partisan Review essayist Alan Helms stated: "Kinnell's willed choice and his one necessity are to explore the confusion of a life beyond salvation, a death beyond redemption. The result is often compelling reading." In the Washington Post Book World, Robert Hass offered a similar assessment. "It is increasingly clear," Hass concluded, "that Kinnell's ambition all along has been to hold death up to life, as if he had it by the scruff of the neck, and to keep it there until he has extracted a blessing from it."

Kinnell often uses fire as a key image to signify cyclical phenomena: consumption by flame leads to death, which in turn allows rebirth. According to Richard Howard in his Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States since 1950, Kinnell's poetry "is an Ordeal by Fire....It is fire—in its constant transformations, its endless resurrection—which is reality, for Kinnell....Theagony of that knowledge—the knowledge or at least the conviction that all must be consumed in order to be reborn, must be reduced to ash in order to be redeemed—gives Galway Kinnell's poetry its astonishing resonance." In The Fierce Embrace: A Study of Contemporary American Poetry, Molesworth concluded: "The persistence of fire and death imagery throughout Kinnell's poetry forces us to disregard, or at least to minimize, the habitual expectation of ironic distance that we bring to much modern poetry. His obviously attempts to be a poetry of immersion into experience rather than of suspension above it."

To further illustrate his themes, Kinnell chooses earthy, natural elements: animals, blood, stars, skeletons, insects. Jerome McGann suggested in the Chicago Review that Kinnell finds solace in the regenerative power of nature, evident in even the least promising situations. In Kinnell, said McGann, "we see that the idea of paradise gets reborn in the cultivation of waste places.... Life is found in death, fountains in deserts, gain in loss, spring in winter, light in darkness. All these matters are the recurrent subjects of Kinnell's verse."

Kinnell does not think of himself as a "nature poet," per se, however. In an interview with Daniela Gioseffi for Hayden's Ferry Review, he noted: "I don't recognize the distinction between nature poetry and, what would be the other thing? Human civilization poetry? We are creatures of the earth who build our elaborate cities and beavers are creatures of the earth who build their elaborate lodges and canal operations and dams, just as we do. The human is unique in that it's taken over, but that's no reason to say that the human is of a different kind, a kind created in the image of some god while all the others are created in the image of mere lumps of dirt.... Poems about other creatures may have political and social implications for us."

Indeed, Kinnell achieved major recognition with the publication Body Rags, a collection that contains some of his best-known animal poems, in which the author explores himself through the subjective experiences of a fly, a crow, a porcupine, and a bear. In "The Bear," for instance, Kinnell "seeks entrance into a primitive state of identification with the nonhuman," according to Frazier. In Modern Poetry Studies, John Hobbs related how "The Bear" originated: "Speaking of the origins of 'The Bear' in an interview Kinnell said, 'I guess I had just read [e. e. cummings'] poem on Olaf....And then I remembered this bear story, how the bear's shit was infused with blood, so that the hunter by eating the bear's excrement was actually nourished by what the bear's wound infused into it.'" The poem extrapolates the incident and follows the hunter as his identity merges with that of the bear he stalks. Hobbs added: "To the question of a conflict between the sacredness of all life and killing the bear, we can see that the hunter slowly becomes the bear, even after its death....In a sense, the hunter hunts and kills himself."

Kinnell weaves this kind of pointedly unlovely imagery into many of his poems in order to present a balanced depiction of life. The author told the Los Angeles Times: "I've tried to carry my poetry as far as I could, to dwell on the ugly as fully, as far, and as long, as I could stomach it. Probably more than most poets I have included in my work the unpleasant because I think if you are ever going to find any kind of truth to poetry it has to be based on all of experience rather than on a narrow segment of cheerful events." New Statesman reviewer Alan Brownjohn praised the "precise, Roethkeish sense of the natural processes," he saw in Body Rags. In a review for Nation, John Logan predicted that with the publication of Body Rags, "we can single out Kinnell as one of the few consummate masters in poetry."

Like his contemporaries, Kinnell "has attempted to develop the poetic explorations of Robert Lowell and Theodore Roethke in order to learn how the breakthroughs of these poets could form a basis for a poetry that served the needs of the final third of the twentieth century," stated a contributor to Contemporary Poets. "His own innovations have led [Kinnell] to abandon the intricate, allusive, and sometimes dense structures that characterized works of the school of [T. S.] Eliot and [Ezra] Pound. His poems have avoided studied ambiguity, and he has risked directness of address, precision of imagery, and experiments with surrealistic situations and images."

Yet Kinnell's verse does pay homage to numerous great poets, including Pound, Eliot, Robert Frost, William Carlos Williams, William Black, cummings, and Lowell. Critics most often compare his work to that of Walt Whitman, however, because of its transcendental philosophy and personal intensity, and Kinnell himself edited The Essential Whitman. As Robert Langbaum observed in American Poetry Review: "Like the romantic poets to whose tradition he belongs, Kinnell tries to pull an immortality out of our mortality." In Western Humanities Review, Molesworth noted a poetic legacy in Kinnell's writing from Pound, Blake, and Whitman. Yet the critic also perceived an ultimate difference from these poets in terms of Kinnell's poetic direction, claiming: "Kinnell became a shamanist, rather than a historicist, of the imagination." In seeing Whitman as the primary influence on Kinnell, Frazier wrote: "In developing his sense of the potentiality of free verse to correspond not to some external pattern but to what he calls 'the rhythm of what's being said,' Kinnell points most often to Walt Whitman....Whitmanesque roughness and colloquiality make themselves felt not only in the longer, looser poems, . . . but also in the shorter, more personal lyrics."

His pushcart vendors, lumberjacks, animal images, and surrealism notwithstanding, Kinnell's is an intensely personal poetry, mining his own experiences of love, fatherhood, anxiety, joy, and spirituality. Said Kinnell of his work in his Gioseffi interview, "Self-knowledge is always helpful to our well being—but if we divide humankind into the good and the bad—and put ourselves among the good and others among the bad or poor slobs, we can never write truthful poetry. It's all false, if based on that erroneous premise—that we are the pure poet and the stupid rabble is all to blame. No doubt some people are morally better or worse than some others, but it is necessary to see that there's no absolute classification.... Knowing that what we call evil in others also exists in ourselves makes it more possible to write something that has authenticity."

Yet as Stephen Yenser noted in the Yale Review, Kinnell's best work is "a poetry that, however personal in its references, continually expands into larger statements." These "larger statements" surfaced early for Kinnell, taking advantage of opportunities to work for the civil rights movement, "instead of merely stewing about it," as he told Gioseffi, and to protest the Vietnam War.

Kinnell was born and raised in Rhode Island. He began to study poetry seriously as a teenager at the Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts, and he continued his studies at Princeton University. There he came under the influence of his roommate, W. S. Merwin—who introduced him to the work of William Butler Yeats—and the poet Charles G. Bell, who recognized and encouraged his talent. After graduating from Princeton with highest honors, he received his master's degree from the University of Rochester and embarked on a teaching career that would carry him to France, Spain, Hawaii, and Iran. Soon after publishing his first book of poems, What a Kingdom It Was, Kinnell realized he could be more productive outside the academic environment. For much of the early 1960s he worked odd jobs, and, for a time, helped to register Southern black voters with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), because, as he told Gioseffi, he found it "unbearable to live in a segregated society."

All his experiences—world travel, city life, harassment as a member of CORE and an anti-Vietnam war demonstrator—eventually found expression in his poetry, and critics were quick to observe the immediacy and impact of his voice. The Dictionary of Literary Biography essayist quoted Ralph Mills, who noted that Kinnell's early writings signaled "decisive changes in the mood and character of American poetry as it departed from the witty, pseudo-mythic verse, apparently written to critical prescription, of the 1950s to arrive at the more authentic, liberated work of the 1960s." As Kinnell told Gioseffi, "There's this thing about political poems—one must learn something from them, learn something about the political event, and if possible in the best poems, about oneself as well."

Other well-known Kinnell works include The Book of Nightmares, published in 1971, and The Avenue bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World: Poems 1946-1964. In a review of the latter work, Williamson asserted that the title poem "is still arguably as good as anything [Kinnell] has written." The critic added that the work, which explores life on Avenue C in New York City's Lower East Side, "reminds one of Crane and early Lowell in its sonority, but more of [T. S. Eliot's] 'The Waste Land'—if, indeed of anything in literature in its ability to include a seething cauldron of urban sensations, of randomness and ugliness, yet hold its own poetic shape." James Atlas of Poetry offered a similar opinion of Eliot's influence on the work: The Avenue bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World "is one of the most vivid legacies of [The Waste Land] in English, building its immense rhetorical power from the materials of several dialects, litanies of place, and a profound sense of the spiritual disintegration that Eliot divined in modern urban life. And, like Eliot's, Kinnell's is a religious poem....Since it is impossible to isolate any single passage from the magnificent sprawl of this poem, I can only suggest its importance by stressing that my comparison of it to [The Waste Land] was intended to be less an arbitrary reference than an effort to estimate the poem's durable achievement."

Comparing The Book of Nightmares to Body Rags, Marjorie Perloff found the latter work "somewhat uneven....Asinhis earlier poems," she commented in Contemporary Literature, "Kinnell uses images of nature in its most elemental forms . . . to discover the deeper instincts of the submerges self." To Langbaum, however, The Book of Nightmares "emerges as one of the best long poems of recent years.... [It] is, like so many poems, autobiographical and confessional." Langbaum cited Kinnell's use of free verse, adding: "but he universalizes his experience through an imagery that connects it with cosmic process." The critic concluded that "even with its weak spots, its few lapses in intensity, The Book of Nightmares is major poetry." Western Humanities Review correspondent Fred Moramarco, described The Book of Nightmares as "simply a stunning work, rich in its imagery, haunting in its rhythms, evocative and terrifyingly accurate in its insights."

While the poems in the more recent Mortal Acts, Mortal Words and The Past maintain the balance and intensity of The Book of Nightmares, some critics discerned a change in Kinnell's orientation. As Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times observed: "Human mortality, as ever, [remains] Mr. Kinnell's great subject, but one [senses] that his perspective has begun to shift. Whereas the earlier works focused on the skull beneath the skin," or the hidden horror of life, "the later ones dwell, however tentatively, on the undying spirit, on the possibility that death may mean not mere extinction, but a reconciliation with the universe's great ebb and flow." Times Literary Supplement contributor Mark Ford found the poems in The Past "more relaxed and meditative, less obsessively physical," with a "growing awareness of the domestic that has begun to infiltrate Kinnell's poetry in recent years."

Selected Poems, for which Kinnell won the Pulitzer Prize and was cowinner of the National Book Award in 1983, is, to quote Dickstein, "more than a good introduction to Galway Kinnell's work. It is a full scale dossier." The collection, published in 1982, contains works from every period in the poet's career and was released just shortly before he won a prestigious MacArthur foundation grant. In his review of the book, Hass concluded that Kinnell is "widely read by the young who read poetry. If this were a different culture, he would simply be widely read....The common reader—the one who reads at night or on the beach for pleasure and instruction and diversion—who wants to sample the poetry being written in [his] part of the twentieth century could do very well beginning with Galway Kinnell's Selected Poems."

Subsequently, Kinnell has published When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone, a collection of poems that closely examines loneliness. In the sequence of eleven poems that gives the book its title, each poem consists of thirteen lines and begins and ends with the words "when one has lived a long time alone." Noted Anthony Thwaite in the Washington Post: "I was glad to see Kinnell showing not only a sense of humor, something he has shown flickeringly before, but—in 'Oatmeal'—a fully-fledged sense of the marvelously ridiculous." Richard Calhoun took a more serious approach to When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone, writing in Reference Guide to American Literature that this collection specifies "the need for love, or at least for the presence of another creature, any creature, to negate loneliness. More than lonely immersion of self into nature is now required; lovers, friends, some kind of companionship, as well as the order and form that song and poems bring into life, all are now integral."

In Imperfect Thirst Kinnell reasserts his position as a latter-day romantic. As David Baker wrote in Poetry: "Kinnell's gift has always been to mediate between the visible, substantial world and the inutterably spiritual or mystical, and his approach in his greatest poems, like 'The Bear,' 'The Last River,' or any of the Nightmares, requires giving over the body's self to the regions of mystery and otherness he identifies in 'There Are Things I Tell to No One': 'I believe, / rather, in a music of grace / that we hear, sometimes, playing to us / from the other side of happiness.'" The volume is symmetrically structured in five sections containing five poems each, and Thomas M. Disch maintained in the Hudson Review that it offers further evidence that "among contemporary poets few can rival Galway Kinnell for sheer amiability."

A New Selected Poems, a retrospective collection, focuses on the poetry of the 1960s and 1970s, eras when, according to a Publishers Weekly contributor, Kinnell's poetry "typically [developed] . . . numbered sections full of dark imagery." Bernard Dick, in World Literature Today, noted the inclusion of the eleven related poems from When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone as the "real triumph" of this collection, saying that "never has loneliness been so seductive, so strangely inviting, so desirable, and at the same time so horrifying." Of Kinnell's later poetry, Ned Balbo, writing in Antioch Review, characterized them as "more relaxed and idiomatic, more apt to very tone, and frequently erotic." Balbo pointed to "Last Gods" as an example, saying that in this verse Kinnell "discovers the sacred element in a sexual encounter."

"It strikes me that Kinnell's is an utterly healthy poetry," noted Susan B. Weston in the Iowa Review. "It is healthy precisely because it confronts horrors—drunks dying of cirrhosis; war and destruction; the communal nightmare of a failing culture; the individual nightmare of the failure of love—along with all that is lovely and loving. These facets of the single gem, the human condition, are examined with a jeweler's sense not only of their beauty but also of their dimension.... Kinnell's gift is a cursed awareness of time—not just of individual mortality but of geological time that lends special poignance to even the most hostile of human encounters." In the Boston Review, Richard Tillinghast commented that Kinnell's work "is proof that poems can still be written, and written movingly and convincingly, on those subjects that in any age fascinate, quicken, disturb, confound, and sadden the hearts of men and women: eros, the family, mortality, the life of the spirit, war, the life of nations.... [Kinnell] always meets existence head-on, without evasion or wishful thinking. When Kinnell is at the top of his form, there is no better poet writing in America."

One topic Kinnell faced head-on was the tragedy of September 11, 2001, in his poem, When the Towers Fell. As he told Alice Quinn in an interview for the New Yorker Online, which published the work: "I wanted to make my account true to my own feelings, but I also felt I should protect the [victims'] families from any tendencies I might have to depict things in extreme ways. I didn't feel constrained so much as wary of going too far. At the same time, I believe that a poem that goes too far is ipso facto preferable to one that falls short." Said Quinn of When the Towers Fell: "The poem has a definite dramatic structure. Each section rises to a crescendo, a sort of fearful apprehension that will be confirmed. And there's a tentative, probing, investigative quality to the way it moves forward, seeking and searching." Responding to Quinn's comments about the qualities of this poem, Kinnell noted, "They were not the result of art but of my struggle to visualize and to understand. I wrote the poem in sections, and I tried to put these sections, or moments, into a clear narrative order, so that I wouldn't have to spell out the connectives between them and could focus entirely on the moments themselves."

In an interview with Elizabeth Lund for the Christian Science Monitor Online, Kinnell noted: "It's the poet's job to figure out what's happening within oneself, to figure out the connection between the self and the world, and to get it down in words that have a certain shape, that have a chance of lasting." But the terrorist attacks were "so huge that it [was] difficult to write about them directly." "Kinnell fans have long loved his work for its intelligence and honesty, his keen eye for detail, and the subtle connections between people and their environment," Lund added. "There is an authenticity, a humanity to his work that few of his contemporaries can match.... Kinnell never seems to lose his center, or his compassion. He can make almost any situation, any loss, resonate. Indeed, much of his work leaves the reader with a delicious ache, a sense of wanting to look once more at whatever scene is passing."



Calhoun, Richard James, Galway Kinnell, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1992.

Cambon, Glauco, Recent American Poetry, University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN), 1962.

Contemporary Literary Criticism, Gale (Detroit, MI), Volume 1, 1973, Volume 2, 1974, Volume 3, 1975, Volume 5, 1976, Volume 13, 1980, Volume 29, 1984.

Contemporary Poets, seventh edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2001.

Dickey, James, Babel to Byzantium, Farrar, Straus (New York, NY), 1956, new edition, 1968.

Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 5: American Poets since World War II, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1980.

Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook, 1987, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1988.

Encyclopedia of World Literature in the Twentieth Century, Volume 2, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Galway Kinnell: A Bibliography and Index of His Published Works and Criticism of Them, Frederick W. Crumb Memorial Library, State University College (Potsdam, NY), 1968.

Guimond, James, Seeing and Healing: The Poetry of Galway Kinnell, Associated Faculty Press (Gaithersburg, MD), 1988.

Howard, Richard, Alone with America: Essays on the Art of Poetry in the United States since 1950, Atheneum (New York, NY), 1965, new edition, 1969.

Kinnell, Galway, Walking down the Stairs: Selections from Interviews, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1978.

Mills, Ralph, Cry of the Human: Essays on Contemporary American Poetry, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1975.

Modern American Literature, fifth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1999.

Molesworth, Charles, The Fierce Embrace: A Study of Contemporary American Poetry, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1979.

Nelson, Howard, editor, On the Poetry of Galway Kinnell: The Wages of Dying, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1987.

Poulin, A., Jr., editor, Contemporary American Poetry, Houghton (New York, NY), 1985.

Reference Guide to American Literature, fourth edition, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.

Shaw, Robert B., editor, American Poetry since 1960: Some Critical Perspectives, Dufour (Chester Springs, PA), 1974.

Thurley, Geoffrey, The American Moment: American Poetry in Mid-Century, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1977.

Tuten, Nancy L., editor, Critical Essays on Galway Kinnell, G. K. Hall (New York, NY), 1996.

Zimmerman, Lee, Intricate and Simple Things: The Poetry of Galway Kinnell, University of Illinois Press (Champaign, IL), 1987.


American Book Review, March, 1987.

American Poetry Review, March-April, 1979.

Antioch Review, winter, 2001, Ned Balbo, review of A New Selected Poems, p. 121.

Atlantic, February, 1972.

Beloit Poetry Journal, spring, 1968; fall-winter, 1971-72.

Boston Review, February, 1983.

Carleton Miscellany, spring-summer, 1972.

Chicago Review, Volume 25, number 1, 1973; Volume 27, number 1, 1975.

Chicago Tribune Book World, June 8, 1980; February 2, 1986.

Commonweal, November 4, 1960; December 24, 1971; August 15, 1986.

Contemporary Literature, winter, 1973, Marjorie Perloff, review of The Book of Nightmares; autumn, 1979.

Explicator, April, 1975.

Hayden's Ferry Review, fall-winter, 2002-03, Daniela Gioseffi, interview with Kinnell.

Hudson Review, summer, 1968; autumn, 1971; winter, 1974-75; spring, 1986; summer, 1995.

Iowa Review, winter, 1979.

Kenyon Review, summer, 1986.

Literary Review, spring, 1981.

Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1983.

Massachusetts Review, summer, 1984.

Modern Poetry Studies, winter, 1974; number 11, 1982.

Nation, September 16, 1968, John Logan, review of Body Rags, p. 244.

New Republic, July 27, 1974; August 3, 1974.

New Statesman, September 12, 1969, Alan Brownjohn, review of Body Rags, p. 347.

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Shenandoah, fall, 1973.

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Yale Review, autumn, 1968; October, 1980.


Abilene Christian University Web site, (January 23, 2003),"Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poet to Read in Major Literary Event."

Christian Science Monitor Online, (October 25, 2001), Elizabeth Lund "Galway Kinnell Searches for the Real Beauty."

Cortland Review Online, (June 13, 2002), Daniela Gioseffi, interview with Kinnell.

New Yorker Online, (August 3, 2004), Alice Quinn, "Writing for the Dead, an Interview with Galway Kinnell.", (June 13, 2002), Daina Savage, review of Imperfect Thirst., (August 5, 2002).

University of Illinois Department of English Web site, (August 3, 2004) "Modern American Poetry, Galway Kinnell."*