Galway Kinnell is one of America's most important poets. This new selection - drawing on eight collections from What a Kingdom It Was (1960) to Imperfect Thirst (1994) - updates his 1982 Selected Poems, which won him the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
His poetry has always been marked by precise, furious intelligence, by rich aural music, by devotion to the things and creatures of the world, and by transformations of every understanding into singing, universal art. These constants appear in a dazzling range of poems: from odes of kinship with nature to realistic evocations of urban life, from religious quest to political statement, from brief imagistic lyrics to extended, complex meditations.
This selection shows how the traditional Christian sensibility of his early work gives way to the sacramental, transfiguring dimension of the later poetry, which "burrows fiercely into the self away from traditional sources of religious authority or even conventional notions of personality" (Richard Gray).
As Kinnell has said: "If you could keep going deeper and deeper, you'd finally not be a person... you'd be a blade of grass or ultimately perhaps a stone. And if a stone could speak, poetry would be its words." Through the poem, Kinnell throws off the 'sticky infusion' of speech and - like the hunter in his celebrated poem 'The Bear' - becomes one with the natural world, sharing in the primal experiences of birth and death.
"There are few others writing today in whose work we feel so strongly the full human presence. His language tantalises us with a foretaste of meaning, an underlying emotional logic that recalls Whitman's I am the man, I suffer'd, I was there. Like all good poetry, his finest poems attract and mesmerise us before we really understand them."
Morris Dickstein, New York Times Book Review