In the citation for the 2003 National Book Award, the judges called Kinnell "America's preeminent visionary" whose work "greets each new age with rapture and abundance [and] sets him at the table with his mentors: Rilke, Whitman, Frost." The title of his eleventh collection comes from Walt Whitman's 'Last Invocation': "Strong is your hold, O mortal flesh, / Strong is your hold, O love."
In this striking and varied new book, he gives us poems of intermingling with the natural world, love poems and evocations of sexuality, poems about his father, his children, poet friends, poet heroes and mythic figures. There is also anger and sorrow at human destructiveness, and Strong Is Your Hold includes 'When the Towers Fell', his stunning requiem for those who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11 in direct view of his New York apartment.
Kinnell has said: "What troubles me is a sense that so many things lovely and precious in our world seem to be dying out. Perhaps poetry will be the canary in the mine-shaft warning us of what's to come." And: "Maybe the best we can do is do what we love as best we can." Strong Is Your Hold is a powerful testament to Galway Kinnell's loving view of the world.
Galway Kinnell reads all the poems in the collection on the accompanying audio CD.
"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