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Maxine Kumin Drifted Away at Age 88

Maxine Kumin poetryEven the most beautiful people have to die; Maxine Kumin, an exceptional U.S. poet, died recently at the age of 88. “Roberta Frost”, as some of her friends and devotees called her, drifted away peacefully at her farm in Warner, New Hampshire. It’s a relief, that her final book “And Short the Season” will only be published this spring, thus extending her life as a writer. Besides, at the end of her life she wrote a young adult novel “Lizzie!”, which shall be published in March by Seven Stories Press/Triangle Square.


The Beginning of the Story: Youth

Maxine Kumin’s birth took place in Philadelphia in 1925. At first she received a degree of Bachelor of Arts at Radcliffe College and than Kumin continued her education at the Boston Center for Adult Education, where she took a poetry writing course. Maxine Kumin wrote poetry, as she was yet a teenager, and now, as an adult, she was going to follow her dreams. It was the poetry writing course, where she first met Anne Sexton, another famous U.S. poet, who remained her best friend till 1974, when Sexton committed a suicide. And it was the poetry writing course, thanks to which Kumin published her poems in such a magazine as The New Yorker. Later, at the age of 36, Maxine Kumin got to publish her first book, “Halfway”, where her early poems were collected.


The Middle of the Story: Poetry

Kumin won many awards, among them are the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, as well as the Pulitzer Prize (the latter she got in 1972 for her poetry collection called “Up Country: Poems of New England”). Among her works you can find not poems alone, but also children’s books, short stories, novels and even a memoir. Nevertheless, Maxine Kumin is considered to be more of a poet than of a writer. When asked of her writing style once, Kumin said: “People see something and say all the time, ‘Now that’s a poem!’ I never see it that way. That’s not how I get my poems. What I’ve experienced may make its way into my poems, but it’s not what generates a poem. I take what comes. I don’t prepare for a poem. Something seeks me out, and then I check it out, and then I work on it.”


The End of the Story: Peace

The last year of her life Maxine Kumin spent on her huge farm, which she bought in 1963 in Warner, N.H. She lived there with her husband, breeding sheep and horses. Horses were a special part of her life – Kumin adored these animals and was herself an experienced horsewoman. It just happened so that she was severely hurt at the age of 73 in an accident, while training her horse for a carriage-driving show. She recovered, but a serious damage, which was made to her body back then, did influence her gradual decline in health.

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