Stanley Kunitz

Stanley Kunitz
Stanley Kunitz
Photo by Ted Rosenberg
March 30, 2001 -- April 1st marks the beginning of National Poetry Month. This weekend, New York City is kicking it off with the People's Poetry Gathering which features almost every style of poetry, from Calypso to bilingual readings of Sung Dynasty poems. Among them will be the United States' 10th poet laureate, Stanley Kunitz.

Mr. Kunitz has published 10 books of poetry, won numerous awards and at the age of 95 he continues to write. Mr. Kunitz stopped by our New York City bureau this week for a talk with Robert Siegel and to give us a sampling of some of the poems he will be reading this weekend.

audio  Listen to Robert Siegel's interview with Stanley Kunitz on All Things Considered.

Throughout the month of April, All Things Considered will be featuring new poets and their work.

See more NPR coverage of National Poetry Month.

Visit the People's Poetry Gathering Web site.

The Layers

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,
over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?
In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face.
yet I turn, I turn,
exulting somewhat,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,
and every stone on the road
precious to me.
In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,
a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
"Live in the layers,
not on the litter."
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written,
I am not done with my changes.