American poet Galway Kinnell died at the age of 87 due to leukemia. He was known for his works such as the Vietnam War-inspired “The Book of Nightmares,” “When One Has Lived a Long Time Alone” and “Mortal Acts, Mortal Words." His wife, Bobbie Bristol, said that he died at his home in Sheffield Vermont on Oct. 28, 2014, leaving behind a legacy of the eternal verse. Read on for further details.
The Pulitzer Prize-winning poet was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on Feb. 1, 1927. His parents were immigrants from Scotland and Ireland. He was inspired to poetry by Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Dickinson. Kinnell was honored at the Statehouse in Montpelier with "A Celebration of the Life in Poetry of Galway Kinnell" in August 2014. The celebration included readings of his work by Jackson and former Vermont State Poet Ellen Bryant Voigt.
In five decades, Kinnell wrote more than a dozen books. He was among the most celebrated poets of his time. The Academy of American Poets gave Kinnell the Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement in 2010. He and Charles Wright won the Pulitzer and the National Book Award for Poetry for his 1982 book “Selected Poems.” He was a poet laureate for the state of Vermont from 1989 to 1993.
Kinnell stood up against difficult issues and protested the war in Vietnam and in Iraq. He fought for civil rights and against disfiguring the landscape of his much-loved Northeast Kingdom. He was also a member of CORE (Congress of Racial Equality).
Some of his most legendary poems are “St. Francis and the Sow," "After Making Love We Hear Footsteps" and “When the Towers Fell,” which centers on the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York.
Kinnell also authored one novel ("Black Light," 1966) and one children's book ("How the Alligator Missed Breakfast," 1982) in addition to his poetry and translation works. He wrote two elegies for his close friend, the poet James Wright, upon his death in 1980. They appear in “From the Other World: Poems in Memory of James Wright.”
Kinnell was the Erich Maria Remarque Professor of Creative Writing at New York University. He was also the Chancellor of the American Academy of Poets, and he retired in 2011. He married his first wife, Spanish translator Ines Delgado de Torres, in 1965. He had two children, Fergus and Maud with Torres. The couple divorced 20 years later. He married his second wife Barbara in 1997.
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