At the height of autumn color this past October, Dean of Libraries Andrew Scrimgeour, drove to south central New Hampshire to meet Maxine Kumin, the renowned poet and former Poet Laureate of the United States. She had decided to give her poetry library and other volumes of literature to Drew. Knowing that the dean had an interest in seeing the libraries of writers and scholars, not in boxes, but on shelves while in actual use, she invited him to “the farm” to browse in the
books and tour the mountain pastures that gave rise to many of her poems.
After his visit, he drove through downtown Concord and passed the main public library. As brilliant as the maple trees on the street was a huge banner blanketing the wall by the main entrance. It proclaimed: “Concord Reads Maxine Kumin.” Scrimgeour smiled and thought, “And Drew University reads Maxine Kumin too!”
Kumin died on February 6. Her library will come to Drew in late April. Most of the books will become part of the circulating collection. She had previously made sure that the Library had copies of all of her published work.
The Drew community is delighted with Kumin’s generous and thoughtful gift. Two faculty reflections follow.
Patrick Phillips, Associate Professor of English.
I was very excited to learn that the writer Maxine Kumin has decided to give her personal library of poetry to Drew. Kumin is a major figure in contemporary poetry, and the author of 17 books of poems, as well as many novels, essay collections and children’s books. Among her many honors are the 1972 Pulitzer Prize and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Excellence. From 1981 to 1982 she served as Poet Laureate of the United States.
To write well is to apprentice oneself to the past, and Kumin’s library will make that possible for generations of writers at
Drew. This gift greatly strengthens our holdings in poetry, and will provide vital resources for students in the English
department, the creative writing program and the graduate school’s MFA in Poetry and Translation. As a student of poetry myself, and a great admirer of Maxine Kumin’s lifetime of work, I am delighted at the thought of our students reading the same poems, and holding in their hands the same volumes, as one of the giants of 20th century American poetry.
Sean Nevin, Director of the MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation.
The gift to Drew University of Maxine Kumin’s personal library will mark another milestone in our MFA’s relationship with a major and beloved American poet. Maxine Kumin occupies a central place in the development of American women’s poetry in the post–World War II period, and is at the same time a poet strongly rooted in the New England of Dickinson and Frost.
Author of numerous books of poetry from the Pulitzer Prize–winning Up Country in 1972 to Where I Live: New & Selected
Poems 1990–2010, Kumin has also published a memoir, several novels, a collection of short stories, over 20 children’s
books and five volumes of essays. Her many awards include the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, an American Academy and
Institute of Arts and Letters Award, the Harvard Arts Medal and the Robert Frost Medal.
A keen observer of daily life, celebrant and defender of the natural world and the animal kingdom, Kumin lived and wrote
on a 200-acre New Hampshire farm she shared with her husband. Breeder of several generations of horses, she writes
in a typical poem, of riding through “wavy stands” of birch and pine,
my horse thinking his thoughts, happy
in the October dapple, and I thinking
mine-and-his, which is my prerogative.
In a poem aptly called “Nurture,” she writes,
Bring me your fallen fledglings, your bummer lamb,
lead the abused, the starvelings, into my barn,
advise the hunted deer to leap into my corn.
In 2010, The Drew University MFA Program in Poetry and Poetry in Translation celebrated Kumin’s life and art with
a two-day symposium, interview and poetry reading. Many of our core MFA faculty are personal friends who have
worked with Kumin and written about her work for many years. We will be grateful to have this legacy at Drew
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of Visions, the Drew Library Newsletter.