The poetry of Maxine Kumin is concerned with loss (particularly through death or separation) and surviving such loss. Equally at home with natural and domestic images, Kumin organizes most of her poems into groups of pastoral or tribal poems. These groupings allow her to explore relationships found in nature and also relationships within extended human families. These pastoral and tribal poems connect through Kumin’s recurring emphasis on the seasonal patterns of nature and the regenerative cycles of familial generations.
Kumin prefers to write in traditional forms (as opposed to free verse) and often employs exacting syllable counts, set rhyme and stanza patterns, and alliteration. She develops many of her poems with catalogs or extends them through simile, though in her later work simile appears less frequently. Her work has also changed, moving from a very personal, private voice to one that is more public.
Images of the body abound in Kumin’s poetry: skin, bone, knees, ribs, and thighs. Swimming recurs as a metaphor with associated water imagery, especially in her first volume, Halfway. This first book also shows a concern for the instructor-student relationship and sometimes, as in the opening poem, “Junior Life Saving,” explores this relationship within the context of water.
The poem expresses concern with loss by drowning and the desire to prevent such loss. It begins with physical...
(The entire section is 4770 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Maxine Kumin Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!