Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: American Poets)
Born the fourth of four children to immigrant parents (his mother was from Ireland, his father from Scotland), Galway Kinnell spent most of his youth in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, where his father, James Scott Kinnell, earned his living as a carpenter and woodworking teacher. Kinnell left home his senior year of high school to attend Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts on scholarship. From there he entered Princeton University, where for two of his undergraduate years, he was a member of the U.S. Navy, training as an officer, and where he also met W. S. Merwin and Charles Bell. Bell became Kinnell’s mentor. In 1949, following his graduation from Princeton summa cum laude, Kinnell received his M.A. from the University of Rochester. Between 1951 and 1964, Kinnell spent two years at the University of Grenoble in France as an instructor of American literature, two years in Iran as a lecturer and journalist, periods of teaching in Chicago and New York City, and periods of retreat to an abandoned farm he purchased in 1961 in northern Vermont. Kinnell’s commitment to social justice during the period was evidenced both in his poetry and his membership in the Congress of Racial Equality. Later he would be an active participant in Poets Against the Vietnam War.
Marriage to Ines Delgado de Torres in 1965, and the subsequent arrival of a daughter, Maud, in 1966, and a son, Finn Fergus, in 1968, temporarily stinted Kinnell’s wanderlust; in 1969, following two years...
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
In 1983 Galway Kinnell won both the Pulitzer Prize in poetry and the American Book Award for his Selected Poems. This volume of poems, which represents Kinnell’s work from 1946 to 1980, may be characterized best as an exploration of what is primitive, wild, and transient in human experience. Since his first volume appeared in 1960, Kinnell has attempted to assert the beauty in the act of living and the appropriateness in the act of dying.
Kinnell attended public schools in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, until his senior year in high school, when he received a scholarship to Wilbraham Academy in Massachusetts. The following year, 1944, he enrolled at Princeton, from which he would receive a B.A. before earning his M.A. from the University of Rochester. At Princeton he met W. S. Merwin, a fellow student and aspiring poet. Their meeting was fortuitous, as was Kinnell’s contact with Charles G. Bell, a professor at Princeton who introduced Kinnell to the “open form” theories of Charles Olson at the Black Mountain College in North Carolina. Although Kinnell made use of traditional rhyme and meter in his earlier work, such formal considerations have never been the focus of his vision. Even in “The Feast,” one of his first published pieces (collected in First Poems: 1946-1954), Kinnell’s use of form seems at best perfunctory, while his...
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Galway Kinnell was born on February 1, 1927, in Providence, Rhode Island, the fourth child of James and Elizabeth Mills Kinnell, immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. Galway turned five the year the Kinnell family moved to nearby Pawtucket so that his carpenter father could continue to earn a living during the Great Depression. “How I came to practice poetry is a little bit of a mystery to me,” says Kinnell in a recent interview, but he does remember that “I came to love poetry when I discovered, in a little anthology in my parents’ bookshelf, the poems of Edgar Allan Poe in particular.” Poe’s language provided a counterpoint to the “rather unpoetical” accent of Rhode Island. “It’s a very charming and loveable accent, but not very musical,” Kinnell admits, and “to discover that this language could sing like that—‘It was many and many a year ago in a kingdom by the sea …’— thrilled me.” Kinnell describes his childhood as “particularly lonely,” and his personality, “shy to the point of mutinous.” By age twelve he knew he wanted to write poems himself, because it was the only way he had of saying the things he “couldn’t express in ordinary life.” Poetry was the key to “that inner life,” he says, whose “weight of meaning and feeling … has to get out.”
As Kinnell became more serious about writing poetry, encouraging influences came his way—an English teacher at Wilbraham Academy, and at Princeton,...
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Biography (Poetry for Students)
Galway Kinnell was born February 1, 1927, in Providence, Rhode Island, to James Kinnell and Elizabeth Mills. He grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and as a child, loved the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. Kinnell was particularly drawn to the musicality and the loneliness that marked their works. In 1945, at age eighteen, Kinnell enlisted in the U.S. Navy. World War II ended that same year, and Kinnell returned home in 1946 to pursue studies at Princeton University. He graduated summa cum laude in 1948, alongside another future poet of fame, W. S. Merwin. Kinnell earned his Master of Arts degree from the University of Rochester in 1949.
Kinnell began his teaching career at the University of Chicago. After earning a Fulbright Fellowship, he lived and taught abroad, visiting universities in a variety of nations, including Iran, Australia, and France. Upon returning to the United States in the early 1960s, Kinnell became involved in the civil rights movement. He joined the Congress on Racial Equality (C.O.R.E.) in 1962. Kinnell’s work with C.O.R.E. included assisting in voter registration and workplace integration in Louisiana, which led to his being arrested.
Kinnell was a poet-in-resident at various North American institutions, and he began winning awards soon after the publication of his first book, What a Kingdom It Was (1960). He won the National Institute of Arts and Letters Award as well as a Guggenheim...
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