Galway Kinnell

Pulitzer Prize-winning Poet
National Book Award Winner


“One of the true master poets of his generation...There are few others writing today in whose work we feel so strongly the full human presence.” —New York Times Book Review


“At a time when so many poets are content to be skillful and trivial, Kinnell speaks with a big voice about the whole of life.” —American Poetry Review


“There's not a specific something I'm aiming for, but there is something that's almost unspeakable and poems are efforts to speak it bit by bit, like a burden that has to be laid down piece by piece, that can't be just thrown off.” —Galway Kinnell


Galway Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, in 1927. He graduated summa cum laude from Princeton University and took a Master’s Degree in English at the University of Rochester. During his career in poetry that spans five decades and twelve collections, Kinnell has received the Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Frost Medal, The Wallace Stevens Prize, and a MacArthur Fellowship. In the nomination for the 2003 National Book Award, the judges called Kinnell “America's preeminent visionary” whose work “greets each new age with rapture and abundance [and] sets him at the table with his mentors: Rilke, Whitman, Frost.”

Kinnell’s volumes of poetry include Strong Is Your Hold (Houghton Mifflin, 2006); A New Selected Poems; Imperfect Thirst; When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone; Selected Poems; The Past; Mortal Acts, Mortal Words; The Book of Nightmares; Body Rags; Flower Herding on Mount Monadnock; and What a Kingdom It Was. He is the editor of The Essential Whitman. He has also published translations of works by Yves Bonnefoy, Yvan Goll, François Villon, and Rainer Maria Rilke.

He is renowned as an especially sensuous poet and moving reader. By giving public readings since 1960, Kinnell has been influential in making the poetry reading a part of our cultural life. His varied career has taken him to Iran as a teacher and journalist and to Louisiana as a fieldworker for the Congress of Racial Equality.

Adrian Frazier, from the Cúirt International Festival of Literature in Ireland, noted, “[In Galway Kinnell's books], you could find how to greet the birth of your first child; what it was like to father young ones and comfort them from night terrors; to experience the death of friends; to find love again in the middle of the journey; to have lived long enough so that looking backward discovers mysterious depths; to recover a true relation to other creatures and to nature and the seasons, as the world is made more and more strange by the apocalyptic, accelerating spread of our own species.”

Galway Kinnell has served as the State Poet of Vermont, and was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University for twenty-five years. He was a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets from 2001-2007. He lives in Vermont.


About Strong Is Your Hold (Poetry, 2008)
In his first new collection (with accompanying CD) in this still new, however tarnished century, Kinnell, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award, begins with homey lyrics in praise of an enduring marriage, parenthood, and friendship. These are tranquil poems, sweet, amusing, and wholesomely sexy. Sage, too, as in the charming "Conversation," a witty exchange between the poet and his daughter that contains the aphorism, "--When ordinary things feel odd / and odd things normal, be careful." And, indeed, there is much to beware of, as the poet reveals in penetrating accounts of everyday life-and-death battles and elegies to his lost ones. Kinnell's poems are contained, even plain, but there is mineral power in his freshly turned language, and the carefully stacked kindling of his lines leaps into sky-high conflagrations, most indelibly in the magnificent "When the Towers Fell." Seasoned and forthright, Kinnell wisely turns to nature for instruction, noting "the crawling of new life out of the old, / which is what we have for eternity on earth." —Donna Seaman, Booklist

Galway Kinnell's website