Galway Kinnell (February 1, 1927 – October 28, 2014) was an American poet. For his 1982 Selected Poems he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and split the National Book Award for Poetry with Charles Wright. From 1989 to 1993 he was poet laureate for the state of Vermont.
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Kinnell said that as a youth he was turned on to poetry by Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson, drawn to both the musical appeal of their poetry and the idea that they led solitary lives. The allure of the language spoke to what he describes as the homogeneous feel of his hometown, Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He has also described himself as an introvert during his childhood.
Kinnell studied at Princeton University, graduating in 1948 alongside friend and fellow poet W.S. Merwin. He received his master of arts degree from the University of Rochester. He traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East, and went to Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship. During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States caught his attention. Upon returning to the US, he joined CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and worked on voter registration and workplace integration in Hammond, Louisiana. This effort got him arrested. In 1968, he signed the "Writers and Editors War Tax Protest" pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. Kinnell draws upon both his involvement with the civil rights movement and his experiences protesting against the Vietnam War in his book-long poem The Book of Nightmares.
From 1989 to 1993 he was poet laureate for the state of Vermont.
Kinnell was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University and a Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. As of 2011 he was retired and resided at his home in Vermont until his death in October 2014 from leukemia.
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Galway Kinnell's poetry has always been marked by richness of language, devotion to the things and creatures of the world, and an effort to transform every understanding into the universality of art.
This volume brings together BODY RAGS and MORTAL ACTS, MORTAL WORDS and THE PAST, three books that are central to the life’s work of one of the masters of contemporary poetry. Included here are many of Galway Kinnell’s best-loved and most anthologized poems. Kinnell has revised some of the poems for this new edition, and comments on his working method in a prefatory note.
The definitive collection of poems from Pulitzer Prize winner, MacArthur Fellow, and National Book Award winner Galway Kinnell.
“It’s the poet’s job to figure out what’s happening within oneself, to figure out the connection between the self and the world, and to get it down in words that have a certain shape, that have a chance of lasting.”
That Silent Evening
I will go back to that silent evening when we lay together and talked in silent voices, while outside slow lumps of soft snow fell, hushing as they got near the ground, with a fire in the room, in which centuries of tree went up in continuous ghost-giving-up, without a crackle, into morning light.
Not until what hastens went slower did we sleep.
Black Light is a voyage of discovery and transformation. Set in Iran, it tells the story of Jamshid, a quiet simple carpet mender, who one day suddenly commits a murder and is forced to flee. With this violent act his old life ends and a strange new existence begins.