by Maxine Kumin
I love to be lured under the outstretched wings
of hemlocks heavily snowed upon, the promise
of haven they hold seductively out of the wind
beckoning me to stoop under, tilt my face
The piece has the nice distinction of being both about New England countryside–which Kumin was known for writing about often–and also political.
Maxine Kumin passed away this week. Margalit Fox of the New York Times has written an obituary for Kumin that speaks, among other things, of the library of memorized poems Kumin kept in her head and how they once helped her recover from an awful accident. Kumin often asked her students to memorize 30 to 40 lines of poetry a week. They found this shocking. Kumin said,
“The other reason, as I tell their often stunned faces, is to give them an internal library to draw on when they are taken political prisoner….For many, this is an unthinkable concept; they simply do not believe in anything fervently enough to go to jail for it.”
Fox also writes of Kumin’s deep friendship with the poet Anne Sexton:
Each installed a dedicated phone line in her house on which to call the other. When writing, they left the receivers off the hook; the moment one finished a poem she would whistle into the open line, and the other would come running to hear it, a system that proved a supremely effective forerunner of instant messaging.
The obituary ends with a poem written for one of Kumin’s grandchildren.