Stanley Kunitz Additional Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

The son of immigrants, Stanley Jasspon Kunitz was born July 29, 1905, in Worcester, Massachusetts. Kunitz’s father, Solomon, descended from Russian Sephardic Jews, committed suicide shortly before Stanley was born—an event that was to haunt the poet and that stands behind some of his most important and best-known poems. His mother, Yetta Helen, of Lithuanian descent, opened a dry-goods store to support herself, her son, and two older daughters and to repay accumulated debts. Reared principally by his sisters and a succession of nurses, Kunitz grew up with his father’s book collection, into which, as he put it, he would “passionately burrow.” Though his mother shortly remarried, his stepfather, of whom he was fond, died before Kunitz reached his teens.

Educated in Worcester public schools, Kunitz edited the high school magazine, played tennis, and graduated valedictorian of his class. Kunitz won a scholarship to Harvard, where he majored in English and began to write poetry, subsequently winning the Lloyd McKim Garrison Medal for poetry in 1926. He graduated summa cum laude in the same year, and he took his M.A. degree from Harvard the following year. He worked briefly as a Sunday feature writer for the Worcester Telegram, where he had worked summers during college. He also completed a novel, which he later “heroically destroyed.”

In 1927, Kunitz joined the H. W. Wilson Company as an editor. With Wilson’s encouragement, he became editor of the Wilson Bulletin, a library publication (known now as the Wilson Library Bulletin). While at Wilson, he edited a series of reference books, including Authors Today and Yesterday: A Companion Volume to “Living Authors” (1933; with Howard Haycraft and Wilbur C. Hadden), British Authors of the Nineteenth Century (1936; with Haycraft), American Authors, 1600-1900: A Biographical Dictionary of American Literature (1938; with Haycraft), and Twentieth Century Authors: A Biographical Dictionary of Modern Literature (1942; with Haycraft).

In 1930,...

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(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

ph_0111226259-Kunitz.jpg Stanley Kunitz Published by Salem Press, Inc.

The contribution of Stanley Jasspon Kunitz (KYEWN-ihts) to literature can be divided into his careers as a poet and translator, as an editor of reference books, and as a mentor to other American poets. Kunitz accumulated a steady record of honors and awards while teaching at more than a dozen colleges and universities. From 1967 to 1977, he edited the Yale Series of Younger Poets, and he served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress from 1974 to 1976. In 1970, he was named one of the twelve chancellors of the Academy of American Poets; in 1985, he was named president of the Poets House in New York City. Kunitz’s influence on American poetry can be seen in the 1976 volume A Celebration of Stanley Kunitz on His Eightieth Birthday, which contains poetry and tributes by fellow poets Richard Wilbur, Gregory Orr, David Ignatow, Olga Broumas, Kenneth Koch, and others. In 2000, at the age of ninety-five, he was named poet laureate of the United States.

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1905, Kunitz graduated from Harvard University. He published his first book of poetry, Intellectual Things, in 1930, the same year as his first marriage. Ironically and sadly, the event that had the most influence on Kunitz’s poetry was the suicide of his father six weeks before the writer was born. When he was fourteen, moreover, his stepfather died; perhaps as a result, he wrote much poetry in which quests for a father and for identity figure prominently. He also showed an early interest in the use of symbols related to home, family, loss, and love. Intellectual Things is written with a careful balance of allusions to religion, philosophy, drama, and earlier poetry, mixed with circumstances from Kunitz’s own life on the themes of death and the search for the father. Later, Kunitz developed the idea of “key images”—a term he employed to describe the universal image patterns he used in his poetry that retained their personal significances to him as a poet as well.

After obtaining his master’s degree from Harvard, Kunitz worked for the H. W. Wilson publishing company in New York until he was called to serve in World War II. He created and edited The Wilson Library Bulletin, for which he wrote a column. The reference books he wrote with coeditor Howard Haycraft became standard texts. Kunitz also edited the military newsmagazine Ten Minute Break while he was in the Army...

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(Poetry for Students)

Born in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1905, Stanley Jasspon Kunitz was the youngest of three children of Russian-Jewish parents. Six weeks...

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