Stanley Kunitz - Biography and Works

Stanley Kunitz is an American writer best known for his intensely personal poetry. His 'Selected Poems' written from 1928 to 1958 won the 1959 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. In the 1980s Kunitz received several poetry awards, including the Lenore Marshall Award, the Bollingen Award, and the Walt Whitman Award. In 1987 he was designated state poet of New York. In 2000 Kunitz was named the United States poet laureate.

Stanley Kunitz (1905-2006)

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, Kunitz attended Harvard University, receiving a B.A. degree in 1926 and an M.A. degree in English in 1927. From 1928 to 1943 he worked in publishing in New York City, after which he served two years in the United States Army’s Air Transport Command. Beginning in 1946 Kunitz taught literature at several American colleges and universities, including Bennington College, Columbia University and Yale University. Respected as an elder statement of American poetry, Kunits at age ninety five was named Poet Laureate of the United States in 2000.

Kunitz’s early work reflects the dense formalism of seventeenth century metaphysical poets. Kunitz’s early poetry collations, Intellectual Things, Passport to the War (1944) and Selected Poems, (1928- 1958), earned him a reputation as an intellectual poet. Critics have praised Kunitz’s poetry, calling him “difficult”, but approvingly. The critical reverence for Kunitz’s poetry often emphasizes the characteristic mysterious nature of his verse.

Intellectual Things (1930) was Kunitz’s first collection of poetry. In it, he insists that human intellect and passion work in unison. His second collection, Passport of the War (1944), contains many poems written during his time in the military. This work addresses a different subject, as Kunitz laments how mechanization has corrupted the human mind. The Testing-Tree (1971) marks a stylistic departure from Kunitz’s earlier work by using shorter lines, freer verse, and a looser structure. The work also moves toward accepting, rather than transcending, the physical world and human society. Kunitz’s Passing Through: The Later Poems (1995) won the 1995 National Book Award for poetry. This volume continues Kunitz’s exploration of themes of survival in a difficult world. It also examines aspects of the natural world and celebrates creativity and art as necessary to a fruitful existence. Kunitz’s later poems are noted for their increasingly autobiographical nature and their continued passionate tone toward life. Kunitz’s other works include the essay collection A Kind of Order, A Kind of Folly (1975), The Wellfleet Whale and Companion Poems (1983), and Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays (1985), a celebration of rural life. He also translated works by several Russian poets, including Akhmatova, Voznesensky and Drach.

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Sharma, Kedar N. "Stanley Kunitz - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 18 Nov. 2013,

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