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To Be Unforgettable

The Kumin Collection by Jim Hetherington – May 7, 2019

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Poetry artist Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) left a legacy for the books with her notorious inclination for “her poems [to] become increasingly unforgettable.” Within The Long Marriage, she wrote poems of many types and sizes. Italics, spacing, poems spanning a couple of pages; yet no matter how they differ, they all fit the theme of “a long marriage.” It spans VII pages followed by an acknowledgments ending detailing her contemporary poets who think alike as well as whom she admired. Kumin bequeathed a collection of hers to Drew University after her death in February 2014. Consisting of nearly 2,000 items spanning from 20th century American poetry divided into individual volumes and anthologies, Kumin herself inscribes many volumes. So these autographs and anecdotal greetings contain a wide array of poetry periodicals, fiction and critical writings on poetry, plus more.

Maxine Kumin lived on a horse farm before she passed away during 2014. Initially published in 2002, The Long Marriage was not her last sell. In fact, Kumin was publishing up until the year she died and lost her farm. What’s bound in these tattered pages I describe as faithfulness and eternal blessing. As she says, “Inescapably, many poems come up out of the earth I live on and tend to.” That just goes to show how resourceful she is and ought to be. This collection is presented in a chronological order that grows on the reader or reciter. From highways to angels and other “Ancient Lady Poets,” what’s made clear is how all-encompassing supporting a friendship, let alone a marriage, proves to be.

Spanning over half a century, her career she describes as “poetry in the Dark Ages of the ’50s with very little sense of who I was—a wife, a daughter, a mother, a college instructor, a swimmer, a horse lover, a hermit.” That’s a quotation. She remarked. Having several awards in the bag, the theme of “aging and mortality” are apparent to an American college English teacher and author, Clara Claiborne Park. Furthermore, aging and mortality are to be widely understood on planet Earth.

Something I have picked up on from reading is that the actions that lead to mindfulness and cultivating a relationship with herself are already on the surface. As far as long marriages go for everyone, that understanding in how to love starts with ourselves. Gauging her longevity as a published poet, after her accident with her horse chronicled in a memoir called Inside the Halo and Beyond, she was overwhelmed that “poetry might have ‘deserted’ her.” Please note not all the poems cataloged are about her life; in fact, she wrote about Anne Sexton in “Three Dreams After a Suicide.” Anne Sexton, an American poet, made it due to her highly personal and performance poetry verse/style. The nature of her writings points to how poetry can be picked up and put down in any order or time you imagine. With 1 to 2 pages length in poetry, how can you not want to pick up The Long Marriage?

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