Perhaps feeling the pressure of having reached the biblically allotted three score and ten years of age, Kunitz felt the need to provide some organized record of his reflections about the world in which he lives. In 1975, still active in literary circles, teaching regularly, and fulfilling his duties as a consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, he compiled this collection of his essays, reviews, and conversations. What might have been an incoherent whole, a ragtag gathering of past writing, in this instance is a coherent and cohesive presentation of the intellectual growth of a gifted, intelligent artist. As in the collections of his poems, where Kunitz imposes a controlling framework often without regard to chronology, so in this selection of his prose work has he paid careful attention to the overall arrangement of what he offers his readers.

It is important to note this detail, because if there is one consistent thread in Kunitz’s artistic life, it is his concern with ordering information. He has shown himself to be keenly aware of the workings of human intelligence, demonstrating in his critical and biographical writings about such poets as William Blake, John Keats, and William Butler Yeats and of such nonliterary geniuses as Albert Einstein that high levels of imagination do not function in linear, sequential ways. A toss of the intellectual dice leaves ideas scattered and inchoate. It is the work of high intellect to gather disparate...

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