MICHELE NORRIS, host:
Stanley Kunitz is regarded as one of America's greatest living poets. Over his lifetime Kunitz has received the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and the National Medal of the Arts. He has served twice as the nation's poet laureate. Well, today Kunitz turns 100 years old. Independent producer Joe Richman visited him yesterday in Provincetown, Massachusetts. That's where Kunitz spends his summers.
Mr. STANLEY KUNITZ (Poet): This is Stanley Kunitz. I don't want to talk about my health or longevity or whatnot. I think everybody knows I'm not a youngster, and that's all right with me. So I'm going to read a poem called "The Long Boat." The title, I should tell you, alludes to the longboat of the ancient Vikings, on which the body of a fallen hero was pushed out into the open sea for an eternity of drifting.
"The Long Boat." (Reading) When his boat snapped loose from its mooring under the screeching of the gulls, he tried at first to wave to his dear ones onshore. But in the rolling fog, they had already lost their faces. Too tired even to choose between jumping and calling, somehow he felt absolved and free of his burdens, those mottos stamped on his name tag, conscience and vision and all that caring. He was content to lie down with the family ghosts in the slop of his cradle, buffeted by the storm, endlessly drifting. Peace. Peace: to be rocked by the infinite, as if it didn't matter which way was home, as if he didn't know he loved the Earth so much he wanted to stay forever.'
This is Stanley Kunitz speaking.
NORRIS: Poet Stanley Kunitz is 100 years old today. He's spending the day with family and friends at his summer home in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Our story was produced by Joe Richman of Radio Diaries. For the text of the poem "The Long Boat" and more on Stanley Kunitz, please visit our Web site, npr.org.
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