Maxine Kumin Questions and Answers

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What is the poem "How It Is" by Maxine Kumin about? Explain the use of metaphors, lexical deviations, or grammatical deviations found in the poem.

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The poem "How It Is" by Maxine Kumin is about the suicide of Anne Sexton, a close friend of Kumin. They were close to one another in age and would routinely share their poems with one another and critique them and even collaborated on several works. Kumin was the last person to see Sexton alive.

Sexton's blue blazer serves as a metaphor for Sexton herself and her influence on Kumin. It serves as both a reminder of Sexton's presence and of her absence. Sexton committed suicide by putting on her mother's fur coat, drinking vodka, and then sitting in the garage with her car running and dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. In the poem, Kumin wishes she could unwind time back to when her friend was alive. She thinks of the death using the metaphor of the collage, with the different elements of the sequence of Sexton's acts being compared to the separate elements that comprise an artistic collage. 

Part of the sense of collage or fragmentation is given by sentence fragments, perhaps the most common lexical deviations of the poems. Examples are the lines beginning with "In the ... In the ... In my ...." Kumin also makes frequent use of the rhetorical device of asyndeton, omitting grammatically expected connective words. 

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