- Brett C. MillierBrett C. MillierMiddlebury College
Stanley Kunitz has been publishing polished, intense lyric poetry for more than seventy years, and he has continued to grow and develop in style to the point that critic David Barber was moved to say in 1996, on the occasion of the poet's ninetieth birthday and the publication of his last single volume, that the “visionary” Kunitz “is still a poet in his prime.” Kunitz himself has said, “The easiest poet to neglect is the one who resists classification,” and while he was not talking about himself, he might well have been. Kunitz was virtually dismissed for nearly thirty years as a poet whose work was stubbornly old-fashioned and derivative of the metaphysical poets, from their preference for abstraction to their formal deployment of meter and rhyme. Since 1959, when he won the Pulitzer Prize and several other awards for his first Selected Poems, 1928–1958 (1958), Kunitz's reputation has solidified and his style and vision has continued to develop. He served the art of poetry as an artist, ambassador, and teacher for over half a century, and by the end of the twentieth century, having lived a long, healthy, and productive life (in contrast to the lives of nearly all of the other major poets in his generation), he is now regarded as among the two or three most important living American poets.