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In Memoriam: Galway Kinnell

Today we would like to take a moment to remember the poet Galway Kinnell (February 1, 1927 – October 28, 2014), who recently passed away in Sheffield, VT, a singular voice in American poetry whose work is as uncompromising as it is perceptive. Galway was a vigorous social activist, working as a field worker for the Congress for Racial Equality, spending much of that time working on voter registration and workplace integration.

Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island. He graduated from Princeton University and received his Masters of Arts from the University of Rochester. From 1989 to 1993, he served as the poet laureate of Vermont. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including his Selected Poems which received the Pulitzer Prize as well as sharing the National Book Award with Charles Wright. The democratic spirit of his writing often invoked comparisons to Walt Whitman, whose writing never seemed to be far from the heart of Kinnell’s work.

Below is a sample of his work that can be found at the Poets Walk, an interactive sidewalk that borders the Centennial Sculpture Park at the Memorial Art Gallery. It is a section from the poem Under the Maud Moon. If you have a chance, take a moment to visit the walk and listen to a reading of his poem:

A round-
cheeked girlchild comes awake
in her crib. The green
swaddlings tear open,
a filament or vestment
tears, the blue flower opens.

And she who is born,
she who sings and cries,
she who begins the passage, her hair
sprouting out,
her gums budding for her first spring on earth,
the mist still clinging about
her face, puts
her hand into her father’s mouth, to take hold of
his song.

You can find more about Galway Kinnell here.