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Essay

Remembering Stanley Kunitz

SCOUT

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 for listening, his curiosity, his talent for renewal, his sense of play, on and on. Where to start?

But now, a “traffic entrance,” to borrow a recent Stanleylocution.

Since waking this morning, the word scout has been nudging me insistently. Like so many of the words I’ve been using in talking about Stanley all week––daredevil stunts, gamble, gambol, nimble, wrangler––this word belongs to a lexicon of risk, pointing to Stanley’s endowment with what Yeats called “radical innocence.” Whatever he encountered, he approached as new.

Scout. Something in that initial consonant cluster wanted resolution; suddenly I was curious to trace its origins. And indeed, what I found draws together so much of what I’ve been trying to express. The word comes from the Latin auscultare,“to listen,” maintaining that meaning through Old French escouter (now, of course,

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Remembering Stanley Kunitz

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