Maxine Kumin

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Maxine Kumin
Kumin in 1974
Born (1925-06-06)June 6, 1925
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Died February 6, 2014(2014-02-06) (aged 88)
Warner, New Hampshire, U.S.
Occupation Poet, author
Spouse Victor Kumin (married 1946–2014)
Children Three

Maxine Kumin (June 6, 1925 – February 6, 2014) was an American poet and author. She was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress in 1981–1982.[1]


Early years

Born Maxine Winokur in Philadelphia, the daughter of Jewish parents, she attended a Catholic kindergarten and primary school. She received her B.A. in 1946 and her M.A. in 1948 from Radcliffe College. In June 1946 she married Victor Kumin, an engineering consultant; they have two daughters and a son. In 1957, she studied poetry with John Holmes at the Boston Center for Adult Education. There she met Anne Sexton, with whom she started a friendship that continued until Sexton's suicide in 1974. Kumin taught English from 1958 to 1961 and 1965 to 1968 at Tufts University; from 1961 to 1963 she was a scholar at the Radcliffe Institute for Independent Study. She also held appointments as a visiting lecturer and poet in residence at many American colleges and universities. From 1976 until her death in February 2014, she and her husband lived on a farm in Warner, New Hampshire, where they bred Arabian and quarter horses.[2]


Kumin's many awards include the Eunice Tietjens Memorial Prize for Poetry (1972), the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry (1973) for Up Country, in 1995 the Aiken Taylor Award for Modern American Poetry, the 1994 Poets' Prize (for Looking for Luck), an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award for excellence in literature (1980), an Academy of American Poets fellowship (1986), the 1999 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and six honorary degrees. In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Kumin's name and picture.[3] In 1981–1982, she served as the poetry consultant to the Library of Congress.

Critics have compared Kumin with Elizabeth Bishop because of her meticulous observations and with Robert Frost, for she frequently devotes her attention to the rhythms of life in rural New England. She has been grouped with confessional poets such as Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath and Robert Lowell. But unlike the confessionalists, Kumin eschews high rhetoric and adopts a plain style. Throughout her career Kumin has struck a balance between her sense of life's transience and her fascination with the dense physical presence of the world around her. She served as the 1985 judge of the Brittingham Prize in Poetry and she selected Patricia Dobler's Talking To Strangers.

She taught poetry in New England College's Low-Residency MFA Program. She was also a contributing editor at The Alaska Quarterly Review. Together with fellow-poet Carolyn Kizer, she first served on and then resigned from the board of chancellors of the Academy of American Poets, an act that galvanized the movement for opening this august body to broader representation by women and minorities.[4]

Kumin, aged 88, died in February 2014 at her home in Warner, following a year of failing health.[5]



Poetry collections


  • Quit Monks or Die (animal rights mystery), Story Line Press, 1999, ISBN 9781885266774
  • The Designated Heir, Viking, 1974, o.o.p.; Andre Deutsch (England) o.o.p.
  • The Abduction, Harper & Row, 1971, o.o.p.
  • The Passions of Uxport, Harper & Row, 1968, Dell paper, 1969, o.o.p.
  • Through Dooms of Love, Harper & Row, 1965; Hamish Hamilton & Gollancz (England), Panther paper, o.o.p.

Essays and short story collections

  • Why Can't We Live Together Like Civilized Human Beings? Viking 1982, o.o.p.
  • Always Beginning: Essays on a Life in Poetry, Copper Canyon Press, 2000, ISBN 9781556591419
  • Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery. W. W. Norton. 17 November 2001. pp. 207–. ISBN 978-0-393-32261-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Women, Animals, and Vegetables: Essays and Stories, Norton, 1994, o.o.p.; Ontario Review Press, paper, 1996
  • In Deep: Country Essays, Viking 1987, ISBN 9780670814312 o.o.p.; Beacon Press 1988, o.o.p.
  • To Make a Prairie: Essays on Poets, Poetry and Country Living, University of Michigan Press, 1980 paper
  • Telling the Barn Swallow: Poets on the Poetry of Maxine Kumin, ed. by Emily Grosholz, University Press of New England, 1997
  • The Roots of Things: Essays. Northwestern University Press. 30 March 2010. ISBN 978-0-8101-2648-0.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Children's books

  • 1961 Follow the Fall (illustrated by Artur Marokvia)
  • 1961 Spring Things (illustrated by Artur Marokvia)
  • 1961 Summer Story (illustrated by Artur Marokvia)
  • 1961 A Winter Friend (illustrated by Artur Marokvia)
  • 1962 Mittens in May (illustrated by Elliott Gilbert)
  • 1964 Sebastian and the Dragon (illustrated by William D. Hayes)
  • 1964 Speedy Digs Downside Up (illustrated by Ezra Jack Keats)
  • 1967 Faraway Farm (illustrated by Kurt Werth)
  • 1969 When Grandmother Was Young (illustrated by Don Almquist)
  • 1971 When Great-Grandmother Was Young (illustrated by Don Almquist)
  • 1984 The Microscope (illustrated by Arnold Lobel), Harper & Row, 1984, ISBN 9780060235239
  • 2006 Mites to Mastodons (illustrated by Pam Zagarenski)
  • What Color Is Caesar?. Candlewick Press. 2010. ISBN 978-0-7636-3432-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Oh, Harry!. Roaring Brook Press. 21 June 2011. ISBN 978-1-59643-439-4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
co-written with Anne Sexton
  • 1963 Eggs of Things (illustrated by Leonard Shortall)
  • 1964 More Eggs of Things (illustrated by Leonard Shortall)
  • 1974 Joey and the Birthday Present (illustrated by Evaline Ness)
  • 1975 The Wizard's Tears (illustrated by Evaline Ness)


  1. "Poet Laureate Timeline: 1971–1980". Library of Congress. 2008. Retrieved 2008-12-19.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. In her own words: Being Maxine Kumin
  3. Wulf, Steve (2015-03-23). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Retrieved 2015-06-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Maxin Kumin's Biography
  5. "Poet Maxine Kumin Dies at 88", February 7, 2014, ABC News

External links