Essay

“I Walk Into the Woods I Made”

Friends and fellow poets pay tribute to former U.S. poet laureate Stanley Kunitz, who died at the age of 100.

Friends of Stanley Kunitz reflect on the poet’s life and influence. If you have testimonies to add, please send up to 500 words in the body of an e-mail to editor@poetryfoundation.org.

Tobe Carey
Stanley consented to read on camera, and graced us with strong readings of “The Portrait,” “Halley’s Comet” and the opening of “The Testing Tree.” When he finished, he said, “That house still has a strong hold on us both.” He also remarked, “I feel so close to my childhood right now.”
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Mark Doty
I had been thinking about Stanley walking through his garden, back in Provincetown, how he’d stand with complete attention looking, just looking, at a swath of pink Japanese anemones or the darkish bark of a cypress.
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Jane Hirshfield
I first heard Stanley Kunitz read at San Francisco State University’s Poetry Center. At 78, and already our great elder, he read in what felt like the voice of a time before microphones, when amplification came from the body alone, and perhaps from the soul.
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Marie Howe
At a poetry festival, someone once asked Stanley about his relationship to Nature. “I am Nature,” he retorted—not unkindly.
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Genine Lentine
Suffused with gratitude for the privilege of working with Stanley over these six years, my mind has been crowding with all I’d like to honor in him: his intrepid grace, his profound quality of attention, his extraordinary capacity to listen, his curiosity, his talent for renewal, his sense of play, on and on. Where to start?
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Montgomery Maxton
Poetry is immortal and Stanley Kunitz, after a century plus almost one, was almost as well.
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Gregory Orr
I met him in the fall of 1969, when I became his student at Columbia University; I’ve known him these almost forty years as mentor and friend and fellow practitioner. I can’t reminisce about Stanley Kunitz the person as presence—I have too many memories there and not enough eloquence of anecdote. I urge anyone who can to search out films he’s appeared in—in order to experience his astounding quiet and lucid presence and the way he recites with incantatory power.
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Michael Ryan
For all his strict maintenance of himself, what he loved most was wildness, the pure gifts of some unnameable indescribable God, whose force he experienced in what he took to be manifestations in poetry and his garden and the sweetest aspects of human beings.
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Tom Sleigh
Although he was understanding of people’s desire to make him into a wise man because of his age, that particular night he seemed a little scornful of the impulse: there was even a hint of half-malicious joy in shrugging off his age as anything other than an impersonal fact.
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Mark Wunderlich
As we wandered the nursery, he’d call out a name. “Now I’d like to find some . . . lobelia.” I would look out at the acre of plants in pots, clueless. Stanley would notice the blank look on my face and describe the shape of the leaf, the structure of the flower, whether annual or perennial, and I would set out to find one and bring it to him.
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Originally Published: June 23, 2006

COMMENTS (2)

On January 21, 2007 at 10:47am Linda Ray wrote:
I have many times shared "The Layers" with friends in difficult times. It is , in fact framed in my office offerring comfort to patients. In East Texas we were consumed last year with the hurricane, Rita and the displacement it created. I did not hear he had died until the Fall and although I knew it would come, I was surprised and saddened as though a close friend had passed. His poems and wisdom touched average people who found his writing very accessible.

On February 16, 2007 at 10:44am Taru Biswas wrote:
I need the poem
Song of solomon by Stanley Kunitz.
Where and how I can get it or can you please e-mail the poem.

Thanks.

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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