The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

“Touch Me” is the final poem of Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected (1995), published on the occasion of Stanley Kunitz’s ninetieth birthday. Kunitz, who among his many honors has received the Pulitzer Prize and the Bollingen Award, had a long and distinguished career as poet and teacher. Unlike many of his earlier poems, “Touch Me” does not have a particular stanzaic form; instead it moves down the page in thirty short, tightly controlled lines of free verse. The poem begins with the words “Summer is late, my heart,” from one of his earlier poems, “As Flowers Are,” written in 1958. The speaker remembers the feelings that sparked the earlier poem when he was younger and “wild with love.” Now, nearly forty years later, he finds that it is his “heart” that is late, that he has already had his “season.” He has spent the afternoon gardening, listening (almost as when he was a boy) to the sound of the crickets, marvelling at their very existence, questioning the nature of creation. So now, in the present-tense voice of the poem, lying in bed listening to the wind and rain, he goes back over the afternoon, reaching for the man he used to be.

When asked about his recent poems, Kunitz replied, “What is there left to confront but the great simplicities?I dream of an art so transparent that you can look through and see the world.” “Touch Me” represents just such an art; the poet’s desire to...

(The entire section is 501 words.)