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Maxine Kumin

poet, writer

In the mid-1950s, Maxine Kumin, a 30-year-old mother and homemaker living in rural New Hampshire, didn’t exactly seem poised to become a successful American poet. In fact, prior to 1957, when Kumin enrolled in a writing workshop at the Boston Center for Adult Education, she hadn’t taken poetry very seriously at all. It didn’t take long for all this to change. Kumin published her first collection of poems, Halfway, in 1961. She has since published 16 books of poetry, five novels, five books of essays and memoirs, and 20 children's books. Often compared to the poet Robert Frost, Kumin uses spare, direct language, and careful attention to detail to explore love, loss, and the natural world of her rural New England. She maintains control over her most emotionally fraught themes, such as war and heartbreak, by adhering to a rigid poetic structure. Not only is there an order “to be discovered... in the natural world,” she once said in a Massachusetts Review interview, “there is also an order that a human can impose on the chaos of his emotions and the chaos of events.” Kumin’s many awards include a Pulitzer Prize, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, an American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Robert Frost Medal, and the Paterson Prize for Distinguished Literary Achievement. Between 1981 and 1982, Kumin served as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress. She lives with her husband on a farm in Warner, New Hampshire.