A few years ago at a large London poetry reading at the South Bank Centre, there was not a British edition of the Galway Kinnell's work. This is strange because he has long been one of America's leading poets, one of the most accessible, and also one of the most intellectually acute. This selection remedies that omission.
The poems here cover most of his major collections published in the USA. And there are many gems here. Personal favourites include one called "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" about a child coming into the parent's bedroom. Kinnell is that rare bird in English language poetry, one who can write about sex without it running danger of descending into saucy postcard sense of humour, as is also shown in another poem "Last Gods" which also has a pantheistic feel about it. Another favourite of mine is "St Francis and the Sow" a meditation on what is sacred.
Kinnell is not necessarily an advocate of organised religion. His poems aim more to get to the centre of things as is shown in perhaps his most famous poem "the Bear" in which the hunter transforms himself into prey. But if he can be described as spiritual in outlook, as well physical, he also has a great sense of society as is shown in a poem about people playing tennis. He is also acutely aware of modern living and suffering. Later on in a poem titled "Rapture" he describes someone suffering dementia as a result of Parkinson's disease being fed.
And then there are some very comical poems like the poem "Oatmeal." This is a conversation with an imaginary friend, who happens to be John Keats. Its delicious silliness also says something about the relationship between the sublime and the ridiculous.
All in all, this is a collection to treasure from a humane, and deeply intelligent writer with a strong eye for the details of life, who may go down as one of the greats of American literature.