Galway Kinnell Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although known primarily as a poet, Galway Kinnell published the fable-like novel Black Light (1966, 1980), set in Iran, which chronicles how a carpetmaker’s act of heinous murder propels him on a dark journey toward spiritual awakening. In Walking Down the Stairs: Selections from Interviews (1978), Kinnell offers his opinions about other poets and his own work. How the Alligator Missed Breakfast (1982) is a children’s book. Kinnell has also published numerous translations, including those of works by René Hardy, François Villon, Yves Bonnefoy, Yvan Goll, and Rainer Maria Rilke. Numerous magazines and literary journals have published articles by Kinnell, several of which have been reprinted as book chapters.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Galway Kinnell’s poetry has garnered an ever-increasing and appreciative audience among both critics and the public. In 1983, Kinnell’s Selected Poems earned for him the Pulitzer Prize in poetry as well as the National Book Award. His other awards include the Academy Award in Literature (1962) and the Award of Merit Medal (1975) from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bess Hokin Prize from Poetry magazine (1965), the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets (1978), and the Shelley Memorial Award (1972) and the Frost Medal (2002) from the Poetry Society of America. A New Selected Poems was a finalist for the National Book Award. He has received a Fulbright Fellowship, Guggenheim Fellowships (1962, 1974), a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship (1968), a National Endowment for the Arts grant (1968-1970), and a MacArthur Fellowship (1984). He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1980. He has been the state poet of Vermont (1989-1993) and a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2001-2007).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Goldensohn, Lorrie. “Approaching Home Ground: Galway Kinnell’s Mortal Acts, Mortal Words.” Review of Mortal Acts, Mortal Worlds. Massachusetts Review 25 (Summer, 1984): 303-321. After unraveling several of Kinnell’s captured moments, Goldensohn lays them beside his professed philosophy and finds serious conflicts. Especially problematical, she points out, are the deficiencies in Kinnell’s treatment of women. Goldensohn’s feminist perspective provokes new questions and provides fresh insights.

Kirby, David. “On the Borderline.” The New York Times, November 26, 2006, p. 20. Kirby calls Kinnell “transrealmic” and compares him to the seventeenth century Metaphysical poets such as John Donne. He particularly praises the poems about his old age and his wife; Kirby writes that Kinnell walks a line between life and death, this world and the beyond. Kirby’s favorite poem is about having oatmeal with an imaginary John Keats, an illustration of Kinnell’s ability to elevate the ordinary into the exquisitely pleasurable.

Maceira, Karen. “Galway Kinnell: A Voice to Lead Us.” Hollins Critic 32, no. 4 (October, 1995): 1-15. Maceira takes the occasion of Imperfect Thirst to present a shrewd and sympathetic assessment of Kinnell’s growth as an artist.

Maecka, Katarzyna. Death in the Works of Galway Kinnell. Amherst, N.Y.: Cambria Press, 2008. An...

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