In a rare interview with Judson Brown for Daily Hampshire Gazette in 1987, then sixty-seven-year-old poet Amy Clampitt remarked, “I’m very much put off by this whole thing of making human interest stories about someone who published late.” Clampitt was addressing one of the most remarkable facts about her life as a poet: that her work remained relatively unnoticed until she was in her sixties. However, although she published “late,” her work is generally viewed as some of the most accomplished lyric poetry to come out of the United States in the late twentieth century.
Helen Vendler remarked of Clampitt’s landmark 1983 collection The Kingfisher,A century from now, . . . it will still offer beautiful objects of delectation, but it will have taken on as well the documentary value of what, in the twentieth century, made up the stuff of culture.
Although she was held in similar esteem as a “culture maker” by a host of other reviewers, who championed The Kingfisher and its highly anticipated 1985 follow up What the Light Was Like as monumental achievements, Clampitt shunned the limelight that her late-found fame afforded her. Thus, the facts of her life, especially of those sixty years before she burst on the literary scene, remain scant and sporadic. It is generally known, however, that Clampitt was born in 1920 in the farming town of New Providence, Iowa.
Even though poems like...
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