Stanley Jasspon Kunitz was a noted American poet who served two years (1974-1976) as the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress (a precursor to the modern Poet Laureate program), and served another year as United States Poet Laureate in 2000. He is considered by many observers to be the most distinguished and accomplished living poet in the United States.
Kunitz was born in Worcester, Massachusetts. After graduating from Harvard University, he became a published writer in his early twenties. From that point to the present, Kunitz’s poetry has won praise from all circles as being profound and well-written–he continued to write and publish work his entire life. Many believe his poetry’s symbolism is influenced significantly by the work of Carl Jung. Kunitz has himself been an influence on many 20th century poets, including James Wright.
His book Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected (1995) won the National Book Award. Kunitz has been the recipient of many other honors, including the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry, a National Medal of the Arts, Harvard’s Centennial Medal, and a term as the state poet of New York State. He founded the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and Poets House in New York City. He also taught for many years in the graduate writing program at Columbia University.
Kunitz was married to the late artist Elise Ascher. He passed away in May of 2006 in his home in Manhattan at the age of 100.