Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stanley's garden, 2005

This 2005 postcard was an invitation to celebrate the 100th birthday of the poet Stanley Kunitz, at Poets House, which he helped establish. I'd heard Kunitz read at the Dodge Poetry Festival, and picked up a couple of his books. Kunitz (1905-2006) was also a gardener, according to Wikipedia:
Kunitz divided his time between New York City and Provincetown, Massachusetts, for most of his life. He enjoyed gardening and maintained one of the most impressive seaside gardens in Provincetown. He was a founder of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, where he was a mainstay of the literary community, and of Poets House in Manhattan.
I'm assuming this photo of Kunitz was taken in his Provincetown garden. The photo, by Marnie Crawford Samuelson, is from his last book, "The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden."

Here is a poem from his 1995 collection, "Passing Through." 

Touch Me

Summer is late, my heart.
Words plucked out of the air
some forty years ago
when I was wild with love
and torn almost in two
scatter like leaves this night
of whistling wind and rain.
It is my heart that's late,
it is my song that's flown.
Outdoors all afternoon
under a gunmetal sky
staking my garden down,
I kneeled to the crickets trilling
underfoot as if about
to burst from their crusty shells;
and like a child again
marveled to hear so clear
and brave a music pour
from such a small machine.
What makes the engine go?
Desire, desire, desire.
The longing for the dance
stirs in the buried life.
One season only,
                          and it's done.
So let the battered old willow
thrash against the windowpanes
and the house timbers creak.
Darling, do you remember
the man you married? Touch me,
remind me who I am.

Passing Through:
The Later Poems, New and Selected

W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.


  1. That’s a beautiful and touching poem. So apt for today’s theme. Thank you for introducing me to a ‘new’ poet. (Nice PC too!)

  2. Amazing flowers, and such a dear poem, thanks for sharing it. I too discover more of who I am when I walk about nature, especially with my four legged wet nosed pals along! (Two dogs of course!)

  3. The poet almost looks like he could be one of the plants.

  4. The picture and the poem... remind me of 40 years ago. Time goes so fast.

  5. "What makes the engine go?
    Desire, desire, desire." Powerful! Perfect poem for this week's theme. Perfect anytime.

  6. What a multi talented man. Gardener and Poet. Interesting.

  7. A lover of gardens and the beauty would easily be a poet. I am not familiar with his work but love this poem. Will check him out further. I enjoyed this post.

  8. Love the postcard, and very moved by his poem. There is no willow tapping at my window, but I do have strong winds and rain right now, as I read this. He evoked perfectly a certain feeling. Would you say all of his poems in that book are all that good? I very much like his choice of images to convey those basic feelings.

  9. Yes, Ticklebear, I think the other poems are just as good. And the amazing thing is, he wrote the poems in this book when he was in his 90s. I haven't even dipped into his earlier poems yet.

  10. I took a gamble!!
    I didn't wait for your reply, trusting that if you posted this, that the whole thing was worth it.
    I ordered it after reading your post,
    but it's gonna take a little while before I get it...
    Oh well, that's alright!!
    Thanx 4 sharing!!
    Perhaps I need to read such things,
    at this point in my life.