Picks and Pans Review: Next-to-Last Things

updated 01/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/13/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Stanley Kunitz

This irresistible book is a combination of new poems and essays by and about one of America's master poets. Kunitz, born in Worcester, Mass. in 1905, now lives in New York City and Provincetown, Mass. His poetry offers such symbols as snakes, raccoons and nature. His essays deal with poets and poetry: Keats, Shakespeare, Whitman, Lowell, Blake. One highlight is a memoir written by Kunitz's mother when she was 85 and ill. It has the richness of a story by I.B. Singer. There is a brilliant interview that appeared in the Paris Review, in which the poet displays his virtuosic command of the English language. "Perhaps it is in the nature of our age to be most moved by poems born of weakness rather than of strength. All the same, I yearn for an art capable of overriding the shames, the betrayals, the lies; capable of building something shining and great out of ruins." Kunitz also has some nice things to say about modern poetry, but then this is all thoughtful, rewarding stuff. A graceful book like this is a rare, precious artifact. (Atlantic Monthly Press, $17.95)

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