Friday, December 09, 2005

The Garden Traveler's Library: The Wild Braid

The Wild Braid; A Poet Reflects On A Century in the Garden
by Stanley Kunitz with Genine Lentine

“a garden that dances”

Every gardener has the soul of a poet, whether they’re tending a pot of red geraniums on an apartment balcony or planting a vignette of baptisia, balloon flower and blackberry lily in the perennial bed of a Colonial Williamsburg garden.

Poet and centenarian Stanley Kunitz recognizes that as much as breathing is essential to his life, so is his garden. He observes that while making a garden, “You’re helping to create a living poem.”

In this remarkable memoir, the man who was named the U.S. Poet Laureate and who has received nearly every award possible for a poet, including the Pulitzer and Bollingen Prizes, reminisces about his early life and his beloved Provincetown seaside garden on Cape Cod where he has spent his summers for more than forty years.
And if you’re the sort who associates poetry with your yawn-inspiring high school English teacher, don’t worry, Stanley will not bore you. Nor will he intimidate you. But he will charm you and probably inspire you. Marnie Samuelson’s wonderful photos show a whisper of a man of 100+ years, stooped and frail, as he goes about his garden. Yet he can shout, oh, how his words shout —and sing and croon and whisper. Words are an instrument that Kunitz plays with virtuosity and he credits the garden as his teacher.

“I associate the garden with the whole experience of being alive,
and so, there is nothing in the range of human experience
that is separate from what the garden can signify
in its eagerness and its insistence,
and in its driving energy to live – to grow, to bear fruit.”
“The universe is a continuous web.
Touch it at any point and the whole Web quivers.”

This slim volume offers insight into his work and his heart. It is a distillation of conversations between Kunitz and his associate, Genine Lentine, as well shares some of his poems and their environment: The Portrait; Lamplighter: 1914; My Mother’s Pears; The Testing Tree; Route Six; The Mulch; The Snakes of September; The Layers; Raccoon Journal; Touch Me; The Long Boat; The Round.

And, like most gardeners, he has strong opinions about what he likes and dislikes. Stanley Kunitz tells us, “There are some gardens, for example, that seem almost stationary because of the repetition of one color. I like a garden that dances; variegation of the leaves and variation in color of the bloom and in texture all keep the garden alive.”

This is a book to savor.

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