For this project, I’m working with Stanley Kunitz and his collection, The Poems of Stanley Kunitz: 1928-1978. What is great about this collection is that it is sorted chronologically – the newer ones first, and his early works last. This is useful because it helps to show the progression of his work from decidedly complex and seemingly difficult to create meaning from (as in “Geometry of Moods”), to work that is slightly easier to ‘understand’ and get an idea for (like “The Unquiet Ones” or “The Quarrel”). He also chose the poems himself, giving the collection an added significance.

As to an overarching theme, although I haven’t read all of the poems in the collection yet, most of the ones I have read deal with being human, particularly as relates to death and living. He seems also to make use of a lot of nature-based imagery. So far, I like that the poems I’ve read have been clearly structured (but not forced into structure) and that the language is simple, but well-chosen.


by Stanley Kunitz

The word I spoke in anger
weighs less than a parsley seed,
but a road runs through it
that leads to my grave,
that bought-and-paid-for lot
on a salt-sprayed hill in Truro
where the scrub pines
overlook the bay.
Half-way I'm dead enough,
strayed from my own nature
and my fierce hold on life.
If I could cry, I'd cry,
but I'm too old to be
anybody's child.
with whom should I quarrel
except in the hiss of love,
that harsh, irregular flame?

The Unquiet Ones

Years ago I lost

both my parents’ addresses.

Father and mother lie

in their neglected cribs,

obscure as moles,

I do not need to summon them.

When I put out the light

I hear them stir, dissatisfied,

in their separate places,

in death as in life

remote from each other,

having no conversation

except in the common ground

of their son’s mind.

They slip through narrow crevices

and, suddenly blown tall,

glide into my cave of phantoms,

unwelcome guests, but not

unloved, dark emissaries

of the two-faced god.