Pulitzer prize winner and US poet laureate Maxine Kumin died this past Thursday at her home in New Hampshire.

Although nicknamed “Roberta Frost” for her poetry, she also wrote four novels, short stories, a memoir, essay collections and children’s books.

A few notes from her obits:

Kumin did not begin to write and publish until mid-life, when she found encouragement in workshops at the Boston Center for Adult Education….While attending the Boston workshops, Kumin met and befriended the poet Anne Sexton. Both homemakers with children when they began their literary careers, they wrote four children’s books together and in general contributed to each other’s development.(1)

In a 2010 interview, Kumin said one of her early motivations to become a poet was reading “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson. She said many of those poems, which were read to her, were locked in her brain because of their melody. (2)

 (Poet Diane) Wakoski wrote in Contemporary Women Poets: “The one thing that is clear throughout [Kumin’s] substantial body of work is that she believes survival is possible, if only through the proper use of the imagination to retrieve those things which are loved well enough.” Kumin herself has said, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, “writing is my salvation. If I didn’t write, what would I do?” (3)

In her own words, she explains her poetry:

People see something and say all the time, “Now that’s a poem!” I never see it that way. That’s not how I get my poems. What I’ve experienced may make its way into my poems, but it’s not what generates a poem. I take what comes. I don’t prepare for a poem. Something seeks me out…Poems always start with some kind of inchoate sensation or line or image or rhythm. I follow it blindly. (4)


Maxine Kumin poses at her home in Newton, Ma., after learning
she won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry on May 7, 1973.
Kumin received the honor for her book of poems, “Up Country.” (AP Photo)

1. The Poetry Foundation, Maxine Kumin 1925-2014

2. Long Island Newsday, Pulitzer-winning Poet Maxine Kumin Dies At 88, February 7, 2014

3. The Poetry Foundation, Maxine Kumin 1925-2014

4. Concord Monitor, In her own words: Poet Maxine Kumin on growing up and settling down, September 15, 2013