Kunitz, Stanley 1905-2006

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Kunitz, Stanley 1905-2006
(Stanley Jasspon Kunitz, Dilly Tante)


See index for CA sketch: Born July 29, 1905, in Worcester, MA; died of pneumonia, May 14, 2006, in New York, NY. Educator and author. A poet and university professor who earned a string of prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, the Bollingen Prize, and the National Medal of the Arts, Kunitz was also a former U.S. poet laureate. The son of a dress manufacturer who died several months before he was born, Kunitz was often haunted by the loss of his father, and the subject occasionally entered into his poetry. Attending Harvard University, he graduated summa cum laude in 1926, completing a master's degree the next year. Upset that Harvard did not wish to give him a lectureship because of his eastern European background, he left the university before completing a doctorate and pursued a career in journalism and publishing. A brief period as a reporter for the Worcester Telegram was followed by a job as editor for the Wilson Library Bulletin. He worked for the publication until 1943, meanwhile releasing his first poetry collection, Intellectual Things, in 1930. He also edited several literary reference books for the H.W. Wilson publishing house, often with collaborator Howard Haycraft, such as British Authors of the Nineteenth Century (1936), Twentieth-Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary (1942), and a 1931 book under the humorous pen name Dilly Tante titled Living Authors: A Book of Biographies. When he was drafted into the army, he formally stated that he refused to kill anyone; therefore, Kunitz was assigned to the Air Transport Command, where he edited the periodical Ten MinuteBreak. His second verse collection, Passport to the War: A Selection of Poems, was released in 1944. Kunitz began his academic career after World War II, teaching at what is now the State University of New York College at Potsdam for a year. For the first seven years of the 1950s he was a lecturer in English at the New School, and from 1958 to 1962 he was on the poetry workshop staff for the Poetry Center of the Young Men's Hebrew Association in New York City. Kunitz next joined the Columbia University faculty as a lecturer and then adjunct professor in the School of the Arts. He remained there from 1967 until 1985. While a professor, Kunitz continued to write and publish his poetry in a dozen collections, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning work, Selected Poems, 1928-1958 (1958), The Terrible Threshold: Selected Poems, 1940-70 (1974), and Passing Through: Later Poems, New and Selected (1995), which won the National Book Award. He received many other important honors for his verses, too, such as the 1956 Levinson Prize, the 1987 Bollingen Prize in Poetry, the 1995 Shelley Memorial Award, the 1998 Frost Medal, and the 2000 Jewish Cultural Achievement Award. Much admired for his skills as a poet, Kunitz was named consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress from 1974 to 1976, a position that was the forerunner of the poet laureate post. He would earn that title, too, when he was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 2000. His last book, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden (2005), is a collection of essays and interviews written with Genine Lentine, his assistant and a fellow poet.



Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2006, section 2, p. 9.

Los Angeles Times, May 16, 2006, p. B10.

New York Times, May 16, 2006, p. A22.

Times (London, England), May 17, 2006, p. 69.

Washington Post, May 16, 2006, p. B6.