stanley kunitz | the long boat

20 10 2007

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Poetry Dispatch No. 72 | May 24, 2006

In the past two years, I devoted both online columns (Poetry Dispatch) and essays (Blei’s Blogs) to Stanley Kunitz, who died last Sunday, May 21, at the age of 100.

His last book, “The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden” was published in 2005, and his “Collected Poems,” published in 2000. All you need to know and love about this poet and his work are live forever in these two books. Read them. (Buy them.) He’s good for the soul.

He once told a reporter that the secret to his longevity was…”I’m curious .I’m active. I garden and I write and I drink martinis.” He also said of his work: “The deepest thing I know is that I am living and dying at once, and my conviction is to report that self-dialogue.”

The following poem is a perfect last goodbye from the old poet. God, we shall miss him. Norbert Blei

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The Long Boat by Stanley Kunitz

When his boat snapped loose
from its mooring, under
the screaking of the gulls,
he tried at first to wave
to his dear ones on shore,
but in the rolling fog
they had already lost their faces.
Too tired even to choose
between jumping and calling,
somehow he felt absolved and free
of his burdens, those mottoes
stamped on his name-tag:
conscience, ambition, and all
that caring.
He was content to lie down
with the family ghosts
in the slop of his cradle,
buffeted by the storm,
endlessly drifting.
Peace! Peace!
To be rocked by the Infinite!
As if it didn’t matter
which way was home;
as if he didn’t know
he loved the earth so much
he wanted to stay forever.

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2 responses

3 10 2012
peterandmarva@gmail.com moller

I was stuck in traffic on one of the bridges that crosses the Merimack River in Lowell
Still one ofmy facorite cities
Stanley Kunitz came on in an interview on air
As he rounded 100 yrs old
He read this poem and the rush oc emotions was as if the dammed river had burst lose from its hold backs as his boat beagan its last trip and his family and freinds stood on the shore became less important as fog wrapped it all in that blanket how he wanted to stay in this world phew comes alive every time i think of him

25 07 2013
sjs

I heard the same segment on NPR in 2005 (also while driving) on my way from Haverford to Philadelphia. I was a senior in college. I’ll never forget listening to him recite this poem in his gravelly old man’s voice…

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