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Stanley Kunitz (1905 - 2006)

Stanley Kunitz
Stanley Kunitz, who together with Elizabeth Kray founded Poets House, was instrumental in shaping the poetry communities of the 20th century, inspiring younger poets through his writing, activism, teaching, and special projects. "Poetry is the most indelible testimony we have of the adventures of the spirit," Kunitz said.

Kunitz as Poet Laureate and his Contributions to the Field

  • Kunitz served twice as United States Poet Laureate, first in 1974-76 (when the official title was Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress) and again in 2000–01.
  • In 1993 President Clinton presented him with the National Medal of Arts, adding to a host of other awards and honors. Kunitz taught in the graduate writing program at Columbia University for over thirty years, mentoring many younger poets.
  • His contributions to the field included serving as a Chancellor of The Academy of American Poets and helping to found the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

Kunitz's Publishing Career

Kunitz’s publishing career spanned an extraordinary 75 years. His first book, Intellectual Things, was published in 1930. His last book, The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden, with Genine Lentine, features photographs by Marnie Crawford Samuelson, was published by W.W. Norton on the occasion of his 100th birthday and celebrated with an exhibit at Poets House Other books include:
  • Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected (1995), which won the National Book Award;
  • Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays (1985);
  • The Poems of Stanley Kunitz, 1928-1978, which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize;
  • The Testing-Tree (1971);
  • Selected Poems, 1928-1958, which won the Pulitzer Prize;
  • Passport to War (1940).
He also co-translated Orchard Lamps by Ivan Drach (1978), Story Under Full Sail by Andrei Voznesensky (1974), and Poems of Akhmatova (1973), and he edited The Essential Blake (1987), Poems of John Keats (1964) and The Yale Series of Younger Poets (1969–77).


Kunitz was born in Worcester, Massachusetts, on July 29, 1905, child of an immigrant dressmaker from Lithuania. He graduated from Harvard summa cum laude in 1926 and early in his career worked as a reporter and editor. He served in the army during World War II. He and his third wife, Elise Asher (1912–2004), divided their time between New York City and Provincetown. He is survived by a daughter, Dr. Gretchen Kunitz; and a stepdaughter, Dr. Babette Becker; five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

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