This volume brings together BODY RAGS and MORTAL ACTS, MORTAL WORDS and THE PAST, three books that are central to the life’s work of one of the masters of contemporary poetry. Included here are many of Galway Kinnell’s best-loved and most anthologized poems. Kinnell has revised some of the poems for this new edition, and comments on his working method in a prefatory note.
About the Author
GALWAY KINNELL (1927–2014) was a MacArthur Fellow and state poet of Vermont. In 1982 his Selected Poems won the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award. For many years he was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University, as well as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. For thirty-five years—from The Book of Nightmares to Mortal Acts and, most recently, Strong Is Your Hold—Galway Kinnell enriched American poetry, not only with his poems but also with his teaching and powerful public readings.
The Olive Wood Fire
When Fergus woke crying at night, I would carry him from his crib to the rocking chair and sit holding him before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood.
Sometimes, for reasons I never knew and he has forgotten, even after his bottle the big tears would keep on rolling down his big cheeks —the left cheek always more brilliant than the right— and we would sit, some nights for hours, rocking in the light eking itself out of the ancient wood, and hold each other against the darkness, his close behind and far away in the future, mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself, I thought I heard a scream —a flier crying out in horror as he dropped fire on he didn’t know what or whom, or else a child thus set aflame— and sat up alert. The olive wood fire had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus, fast asleep, left cheek glowing, God.
Three Books: Copyright © 1993, 2002 by Galway Kinnell Mortal Acts, Mortal Words: Copyright © 1980 by Galway Kinnell Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.