Friday, August 01, 2014

Poetry Friday: In Which Stanley Kunitz Blows Me Away

an excerpt from
The Layers 
by Stanley Kunitz

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?

You must read the whole poem here, at

Read more about Kunitz here or here. And here is a Paris Review interview with him from 1977.


The Poetry Friday round up is at Reflections on the Teche.


Bridget Magee said...

Thank you for introducing me to Stanley Kunitz, a poet I am not familiar with. I will have to look to see more of his work. = )

Karen Edmisten said...

Isn't he terrific?

Monica said...

What Bridget said! A powerful poem.

Karen Edmisten said...

I thought so, too. And I found it thanks to the Poem-a-Day at :)

Carol said...

This poem feels way big to me, one of those, "I'm not sure I get it" poems. A dear friend moved to Hong Kong for two years yesterday and when I read your excerpt, I thought, "This is exactly where I am" and then I read the rest, and now I'm not sure. I need to read it a couple of more times and let it slosh around in my brain when I'm doing chores and errands today.

Ruth said...

My tribe is scattered, too, and my heart has a lot of trouble being reconciled.

Margaret Simon said...

Wonderful poem and pairs nicely with Tabatha's Longfellow poem today. We are all on the road that is filled with loss, yet these poems today help us lift our heads to see the hope and future. Thanks for sharing.

Karen Edmisten said...

Carol, here's what Kunitz said about the poem (according to

About “The Layers” Stanley Kunitz has said, “I wrote ‘The Layers’ in my late seventies to conclude a collection of sixty years of my poetry. Through the years I had endured the loss of several of my dearest friends, including Theodore Roethke, Mark Rothko, and—most recently—Robert Lowell. I felt I was near the end of a phase in my life and in my work. The poem began with two lines that came to me in a dream, spoken out of a dark cloud: ‘Live in the layers, / not on the litter.’”

Ruth, my tribe is scattered, too. :/ And Margaret, I agree -- a lovely pairing with Tabatha's choice for today.

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes said...

These lines were particularly meaningful to me:

Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.

I believe that. I just wish I could get a bit of a preview.

Thanks for sharing this wonderful poem, Karen.

Karen Edmisten said...

Me, too, Michelle ... me, too. :)