(Masterpieces of Women's Literature)

Maxine Kumin is part of a major generation of American poets, those born in the 1920’s and early 1930’s who reached maturity after World War II. Because of the rise of the United States to the status of world power, it was believed that American literature should be promoted to a level adequate to such a power. Therefore, young writers who came to prominence were encouraged to further their literary careers. This encouragement meant that writers were free to experiment in the quest for new and interesting forms and meanings. Many writers who were primarily poets, for example, assayed the novel form as well. When Kumin turned to fiction in the mid-1960’s, it seemed as if she was joining this club. Yet Kumin’s novels are different from such works of fiction by poets as Galway Kinnell’s Black Light (1966), John Ashbery and James Schuyler’s A Nest of Ninnies (1969), and James Merrill’s The (Diblos) Notebook (1965). These novels were all self-consciously avant-garde, and their prose had many of the poetic qualities of their authors’ verse compositions. Kumin sought to use the novel more as a device for social comment and cultural change. As a consequence, her fiction is almost deliberately unpoetic in its presentation. The prose is taut, and the setting is contemporary. Even in The Passions of Uxport (1968), a novel with a more traditional domestic setting than The Abduction, Kumin writes not with rhetorical...

(The entire section is 467 words.)