Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell, of Sheffield, Vermont, will open this year’s Fireside Literary Series at St. Johnsbury Academy on Friday November 2 at 3:30 p.m.
Kinnell, who was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1927, is a long-time Vermont resident. He has mentored many poets and other authors through his career as Professor of Creative Writing at New York University; as Chancellor for The Academy of American Poets; and as distinguished faculty on many a writing workshop, in the United States and abroad. He won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for his 1980 “Selected Poems.”
His newest volume, “Strong Is Your Hold: Poems,” includes his powerful 9-11 masterpiece “When the Towers Fell” as its central offering. Many of the other poems in the collection deal as directly and deeply with love, as implied by the title of the volume, drawn from Walt Whitman: “Strong is your hold O mortal flesh,/ Strong is your hold O love.”
His wife Bobbie Bristol, who is an editor, and his now grown children Maud and Fergus are often the focus of such poems, but so is the Northeast Kingdom, and one of his noted pieces is “The Beauty of Pigs.” Although the title of the poem is lighthearted, the material allows other readings too, as Kinnell has always faced squarely his perceived obligation as a poet to grapple with and voice the value and fragility of life.
“One thing that leads a person to poetry is an inner life of some activity and maybe even turbulence,” he has explained, “the weight of meaning and feeling that has to get out.”
Kinnell’s reading is sponsored by the Grace Stuart Orcutt Library, where it will take place, and by the St. Johnsbury Academy Department of English and Kingdom Books (which will provide books for purchase at the event). The library is fully accessible, and the event is free and open to the public.