Maxine Kumin: Biography & Poems

Instructor: Natarielle Powell
Ever heard the old saying, 'simpler is better?' Well, simple poems got Maxine Kumin a Pulitzer Prize. Unfortunately, horseback-riding left her with a broken neck. Read on for more info on the life and poetry of Maxine Kumin.

A Poet's Words

Writing is my salvation. If I didn't write, what would I do? - Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin

Early Life

Maxine Kumin (Kyoo-men) was born on June 6, 1925 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her family was Jewish, and she lived across the street from a Catholic convent. Maxine attended primary school at the convent, and many elements of the life of Jesus as well as Jewish rituals are found in her poetry. She went on to receive her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees from Radcliffe College.

Starting in the Middle

Many writers begin writing and publishing their work in their early 20s -- or even earlier. Maxine Kumin began her writing career closer to the middle of her life. Her first collection of poems, Halfway, was published in 1961 when she was 36 years old.

Most of Kumin's poetry featured simple ideas and pictures from nature. Many of the elements were from her environment in the New England area, country life and her different experiences.

Writing with Anne Sexton

Maxine met fellow poet Anne Sexton at a writing workshop. As their friendship developed, the two writers began having their own writing workshops with each other over the phone. They would critique each other's work and offer honest feedback. They even wrote four children's books together.

Poetry and Other Writing

Kumin's writing style is very personal. In her poems, she shares information about her life in the country, her neighbors, losing her parents, and her children moving out of the house.

Below are some of her books of poetry:

Connecting the Dots (1996)

Looking for Luck (1992)

Our Ground Time Here Will Be Brief (1982)

House, Bridge, Fountain, Gate (1975)

Maxine Kumin also wrote and published essays. In the year 2000, she published her memoirs (a book about her life) entitled, Inside the Halo and Beyond: The Anatomy of a Recovery. She has also written several novels and short stories.

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