This video segment from Poetry Everywhere features the poet Stanley Kunitz reading his poem "Touch me" at the Dodge Poetry Festival. Stanley Kunitz wrote about new life—renewal, shaking off old habits and ideas, and the cycle of life and death. His poetry was always changing, and he continued to write new poems until his death at age 100 in 2006; in fact, he became Poet Laureate at the age of 95.
For a biography of the poet Stanley Kunitz please visit the Poetry Foundation Web site.
This poem begins by reviving and renewing a line from a poem he wrote decades earlier: “Summer is late, my heart.” That early poem was about being young, and “wild with love,” but the person remembering that line is now an old man, sitting in the evening, listening to the “whistling wind and rain.” He is at the end of a long day, during which he was working in his garden. As he sits, the poet remembers the crickets chirping around him as he worked outside, and his own amazement at how loudly they chirped and how long they went on singing.
What makes the crickets sing like that, he wonders, and his question is not just about crickets. What makes the earth burst with plants and flowers every spring, when they will only die in the fall and winter? What makes animals call for mates each year, when they won’t have long to spend with them? What keeps life going when it always ends in death? Even the storm, which has been building up all day, will soon wear itself out, the clouds will disappear, and the rain will be over. The only answer is the basic desire of all things to live, no matter how briefly, and to celebrate the life they are given by living it to the full. Rain thrashes the trees with its force, cricket chirps at full volume, and the old man remembers his young love, and his desire, and celebrates it. It was not in vain simply because he and his beloved have grown old. With one touch from her, he can relive it all, coming full circle to briefly revive and renew his old self.
Read a biography of the poet Stanley Kunitz at the Poetry Foundation Web site.
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