Jack & Other New Poems
Maxine Kumin
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Buy *Jack and Other New Poems* online

Jack and Other New Poems

Maxine Kumin
W.W. Norton
112 pages
January 2005
rated 4 of 5 possible stars
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Maxines Kumin lives in the bosom of nature's world, gathered all about her in the verses that define life on many levels, from the incidental to the infinite perceptions of the imagination, facing an eventual reckoning with the Grim Reaper. So begins the revelatory poetry of a woman dissecting her life, the recollections and reminders that spring to mind in the autumn years. In "Magda of Hospice House":

"I love my work as a specialist in easement.
Death is the thing I know, its catch and gurgle."
And in "Summer Meditation":
"I want to sing
of death unbruised.
Its smoothening.
I want to prepare
for death's arrival
in my life."
People of a certain generation are blessed with such reminiscences, be it yesterday or sixty years ago, each as fresh as the new morning on a New England farm. Perhaps Kumin culls the reward of maturity, as visions spring complete from the mind, the passing years insignificant. But it is these memories that so endear the author's poetry, incisive observations without the taint of revision. In "The Snarl," the poet reveals a heartbreaking memory:
"...one of the clique that had snubbed me down to the bone
so that I ate my dry sandwich daily in a stall
in the john after Latin class"
The poet plants her feet squarely on the ground of her beloved farm, knows her neighbor's names, takes nothing for granted and grapples daily with the disintegration of ageing bones. She gives no quarter, bolstered by memories of old yearnings and bittersweet recollections. In sturdy Yankee phrases, Kumin writes of animals, dogs and horses as familiar as lifelong friends, their losses just as deeply mourned. In the title poem, Jack, Kumin speaks sadly of a remembered horse, passed to someone who betrayed that trust and sent him to an unsafe place:
"Oh Jack, tethered in what rough stall alone
did you remember that one good winter?"
The presence of death and ritual are familiar topics on a farm and Kumin lives each moment of this world, on intimate terms with its comings and goings. The subtle strength of her work reaffirm the poet’s tenacity and appreciation for the living beings that surround her, their spirits as beloved as friends and family. The world intrudes, but not with such great import as to erode the cycles of farm life: "Let them slip through my hands/ weightless as the wind and fugitive as a dream" ("Crossing Over"). She does not withdraw from the world, but occupies a place where comfort is found and life is undeniable.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Luan Gaines, 2005

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