The 88 year old Pulitzer Prize-winning poet, Maxine Kumin, passed away February 6th at her farm near Warner, New Hampshire. Maxine served as poetry consultant at the Library of Congress in the early 80’s. She was known for writing much of her work about farm animals, pace of the country life and changing seasons that she was called “Roberta Frost” by some. Her works looked into the timeless theme of life and death and how poetry can spur the spirit of an age.
Her work “Up Country” is the collection that won her the Pulitzer Prize in 1973. “Up Country” is an 83-page, 42 poem piece that has sharp observations about nature merged with sensitive look at the human understanding of what happened before.
Novelist Joyce Carol Oates said “The experience of ‘Up Country’s’ 42 poems is dramatic and visionary, but above all convincing.” She also goes on to say that although the setting is in rural New England, the imagination in the work is boundless.
Her poetic gaze could look at things as simple as mud, animals dying and excrement and could widen her view to make points related to environment, religious intolerance and warfare. She was a firm believer in poets avoiding political statements, but in 2008 she said she, “changed her mind.” She also said, “I had to write them.” She then wrote “Mulching” in 2007, she discusses feeing like, “a helpless citizen of a country I used to love.”
Ms. Kumin and her husband worked together to clear fields of rocks and trees from their home in New Hampshire in 1976. To build fences, plant a vegetable garden, muck out stables, help mares give birth and split wood. They also gave many abandoned dogs and horses a home in their stables and household.
In 2008, she was quotes saying, “writing is my salvation, if I didn’t write, what would I do?”