"Winner of the 1995 National Book Award, Passing Through confirms that the venerable doyen of American poetry is still a poet in his prime."—Atlantic Monthly
Stanley Kunitz, one of the masters of contemporary poetry, presents his ninth collection, gathering a rich selection of his work, including new poems that remind us of his prefatory statement: "Art is the chalice into which we pour the wine of transcendence." Nearly all the poems of Kunitz's later years, beginning with The Testing-Tree (1971), are included, and most of the poems in Passing Through
are unavailable in any other edition.
In "Touch Me," the last poem in the collection, Kunitz propounds a question, "What makes the engine go?" and gives us his answer: "Desire, desire, desire." These poems fairly hum with the energy, the excitement, the ardor, that make Kunitz one of our most enduring and highly honored poets. In the words of Carolyn Forché, "he is a living treasure."
Marking his 90th birthday, this Stanley Kunitz greatest hits package is a treasure. "The Wellfleet Whale" is one of the best nature poems of the 20th century, but Kunitz shines brightest when writing about the family. Notice especially, "The Portrait," which both describes a portrait found in an attic and is itself a portrait of Kunitz's childhood. The poem details a child finding a portrait of his dead father, a portrait that opens old wounds ("My mother never forgave my father / for killing himself") even as new wounds are being formed. This is moving, potent, passionate writing.