“Another Night in the Ruins,” by Galway Kinnell, is a poem about spirituality and creativity told in seven sections. It was first published in the Paris Review in the spring of 1966. Kinnell later included it in his poetry collection, Body Rags (1968), which was a finalist for the prestigious National Book Award. The publication of this volume marked a high point in Kinnell’s career as a poet; after this point Kinnell began to garner significant honors.
As a child, Kinnell loved the work of Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson, but as a mature poet, he considered himself a follower of Walt Whitman. Scholars of American literature assert that modern American poetry stems either from the tradition of Walt Whitman or from Emily Dickinson. Whitman is clearly evoked in Kinnell’s passionate, sonorous style, and like Whitman’s work, Kinnell’s poems are concerned with spirituality, man’s relationship with the natural world, and social issues.
“Another Night in the Ruins” draws heavily from the natural and spiritual world as the narrator examines his own process of creativity. The ruins referred to in the title are the metaphysical ruins of former works residing within the narrator of the poem. The narrator is seeking a way toward growth or rebirth as a writer. By the end of the poem, he comprehends that the fire of creativity is not a tool to be controlled, and he knows instead his real work lies in trusting himself entirely to his creative passion.