Reading poetry at Beatnik Party
Grindstone Cafe, Lyndonville, Vermont
March 16, 2013
February 1, 1927 |
Providence, Rhode Island
National Book Award
Galway Kinnell (born February 1, 1927) is an American poet. For his 1982 Selected Poems he won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and split the National Book Award for Poetry with Charles Wright. From 1989 to 1993 he was poet laureate for the state of Vermont.
An admitted follower of Walt Whitman, Kinnell rejects the idea of seeking fulfillment by escaping into the imaginary world. His best-loved and most anthologized poems are "St. Francis and the Sow" and "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps".
Born in Providence, Rhode Island, Kinnell said that as a youth he was turned on to poetry by Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson, drawn to both the musical appeal of their poetry and the idea that they led solitary lives. The allure of the language spoke to what he describes as the homogeneous feel of his hometown, Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He has also described himself as an introvert during his childhood.
Kinnell studied at Princeton University, graduating in 1948 alongside friend and fellow poet W.S. Merwin. He received his master of arts degree from the University of Rochester. He traveled extensively in Europe and the Middle East, and went to Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship. During the 1960s, the Civil Rights Movement in the United States caught his attention. Upon returning to the US, he joined CORE (Congress of Racial Equality) and worked on voter registration and workplace integration in Hammond, Louisiana. This effort got him arrested. In 1968, he signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War. Kinnell draws upon both his involvement with the civil rights movement and his experiences protesting against the Vietnam War in his book-long poem The Book of Nightmares.
Kinnell was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University and a Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets. As of 2011, he is retired and resides at his home in Vermont.
While much of Kinnell's work seems to deal with social issues, it is by no means confined to one subject. Some critics have pointed to the spiritual dimensions of his poetry, as well as the nature imagery present throughout his work. “The Fundamental Project of Technology” deals with all three of those elements, creating an eerie, chant-like and surreal exploration of the horrors atomic weapons inflict on humanity and nature. Sometimes Kinnell utilizes simple and brutal images (“Lieutenant! / This corpse will not stop burning!” from “The Dead Shall be Raised Incorruptible”) to address his anger at the destructiveness of humanity, informed by Kinnell’s activism and love of nature. There’s also a certain sadness in all of the horror—“Nobody would write poetry if the world seemed perfect.” There’s also optimism and beauty in his quiet, ponderous language, especially in the large role animals and children have in his later work (“Other animals are angels. Human babies are angels”), evident in poems such as “Daybreak” and “After Making Love We Hear Footsteps”.
In addition to his works of poetry and his translations, Kinnell published one novel (Black Light, 1966) and one children's book (How the Alligator Missed Breakfast, 1982).
Kinnell wrote two elegies for his close friend, the poet James Wright, upon the latter's death in 1980. They appear in From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright.
Selected works 
Poetry collections 
- What a Kingdom It Was. Houghton Mifflin. 1960.
- Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock. Houghton Mifflin. 1964.
- Body Rags. Houghton Mifflin. 1968.
- The Book of Nightmares. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1973. ISBN 978-0-395-12098-9.
- The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ into the New World: Poems 1946-64 (1974)
- Walking Down the Stairs (a collection of interviews) (1978).
- Mortal Acts, Mortal Words. Houghton Mifflin. 1980. ISBN 978-0-395-29125-2.
- "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps". Copper Canyon Press. 1980.
- Blackberry Eating. William B. Ewert. 1980.
- Selected Poems. Houghton Mifflin. 1982. ISBN 978-0-395-32045-7. —winner of the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize
- How the Alligator Missed Breakfast. Illustrator Lynn Munsinger. Houghton Mifflin. 1982. ISBN 978-0-395-32436-3.
- "The Fundamental Project of Technology". William B. Ewert. 1983.
- The Past. Houghton Mifflin. 1985. ISBN 978-0-395-39385-7.
- When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone. Knopf. 1990. ISBN 978-0-394-58856-8.
- Three Books. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2002. ISBN 978-0-618-21911-7.
- Imperfect Thirst. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 1996. ISBN 978-0-395-75528-0.
- A New Selected Poems. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2000. ISBN 978-0-618-15445-6. —finalist for the National Book Award
- The avenue bearing the initial of Christ into the New World: poems, 1953-1964. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. 2002. ISBN 978-0-618-21912-4.
- Strong Is Your Hold. Houghton Mifflin. 2006. ISBN 978-0-618-22497-5.
- Translated collections
- Yves Bonnefoy (1968). On the motion and immobility of Douve. Translator Galway Kinnell. Ohio University Press.
- François Villon (1982). The poems of François Villon. Translator Galway Kinnell. UPNE. ISBN 978-0-87451-236-6.
- Yvan Goll (1970). Lackawanna Elegy. Translator Galway Kinnell. Sumac Press. ISBN 978-0-912090-07-8.
- Yvan Goll (1968). Yvan Goll, Selected Poems. Translators Paul Zweig, Jean Varda, Robert Bly, George Hitchcock, Galway Kinnell. Kayak Books.
- Rainer Maria Rilke (2000). In Galway Kinnell. The Essential Rilke. Translators Galway Kinnell, Hannah Liebmann. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-095654-7.
- Black Light. Houghton Mifflin. 1966.
- "Poetry". Past winners & finalists by category. The Pulitzer Prizes. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
- "National Book Awards – 1983". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
(With essay by Eric Smith from the Awards 60-year anniversary blog.)
- Charles Molesworth (1987). "The Rank Favor of Blood". In Howard Nelson. On the poetry of Galway Kinnell. University of Michigan Press. ISBN 978-0-472-06376-5.
- Press release of November 8, 2000, from the University of Rochester
- “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
- Modern Poets
- Poetry Archive
- "National Book Awards – 2000". National Book Foundation. Retrieved 2012-04-07.
Further reading 
- Conesa-Sevilla, J. (2008). Dreaming With Bear (Kinnell's Poem). Ecopsychology Symposium at the 25th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Study of Dreams, Montreal, July 11.
- Poems by Kinnell and biography at PoetryFoundation.org
- "Interview with Galway Kinnell by Mike Edgerly on Minnesota Public Radio" MPR Interview
- "The loveliness of pigs: Galway Kinnell searches for the real beauty" interview and poem “Daybreak” on the Christian Science Monitor
- Cortland Review interview and poem “The Fundamental Project of Technology”
- "Galway Kinnell reads 'Wait' " for the WGBH series, New Television Workshop
- " 'Since you asked..,' with Galway Kinnell for the WGBH series, New Television Workshop
- Profile and poems at Academy of American Poets
- Modern American Poetry short biography