In Memory: Maxine Kumin

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

Maxine Kumin in The New Yorker by Paul Muldoon from The New Yorker. Peek: “Her poems…have the virtue of being meticulously observed and of dealing plainly with the things of the world.” Note: article includes audio of Maxine reading.

Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer-Winning Poet With a Naturalist’s Precision, Dies at 88 by Margalit Fox from The New York Times. Peek: “The author of essays, novels, short stories and children’s books as well as poetry, Ms. Kumin…was praised by critics for her keen ear for the aural character of verse — the clash and cadence of meter, the ebb and flow of rhyme — and her naturalist’s eye for minute observation.”

From Candlewick Press: “She wrote poetry, essays, novels and children’s books, including the picture book What Color is Caesar? which we were proud to publish in 2010.”

From Shelf Awareness (quoting TNYT): “A poetry collection, And Short the Season (Norton), is scheduled to be published this spring, as is Lizzie! (Triangle Square/Seven Stories Press), ‘a partly autobiographical novel for young adults about a girl coping with a spinal-cord injury….'”

From W.W. Norton & Co.: “…she muses on mortality: her own and that of the earth. Always deeply personal, always political, these poems blend myth and modernity, fecundity and death, and the violence and tenderness of humankind.” Note: read from Maxine’s “Whereof the Gift Is Small.”

Cynsational Notes

Lizzie by Maxine Kumin, illustrated by Elliott Gilbert (Seven Stories, March 11, 2014). From the promotional copy:

America, meet Lizzie Peterlinz, age 11. Paralyzed below the waist after slipping off a diving board two years ago, Lizzie does not let her wheelchair get in the way of her curiosity.

She and her single mother are starting life over in a small town in Florida, where Lizzie’s hunger for knowledge and adventure lead her to some unlikely friends. 

She bonds with Josh, the only other disabled kid at her school, and they rejoice in normal kid activities, despite the awkward stares they face at school. And she and her mother make friends with some elderly neighbors, Teresa and Digger Martinez, who become Lizzie’s adopted grandparents, teaching her Spanish and encouraging her to embrace her life, difficulties and all.

One of Lizzie’s favorite things to do is visit a run-down roadside petting zoo, run by a slow-moving gentle giant Lizzie and her mom affectionately call Henry the Huge. One afternoon, as Lizzie is exploring the fields behind the petting zoo, she comes across a shack full of screeching monkeys and the mysterious boy who cares for them.

A man with a slick grin arrives on the scene, and Lizzie begins to uncover where the monkeys came from.

With Josh and Digger’s help, she puts the pieces together, but it’s too late, the monkey thief strikes again and this time, it’s Lizzie who’s in danger.

2 thoughts on “In Memory: Maxine Kumin

  1. Cynthia, I'm glad I finally started following your blog—now that I'm actually following blogs! lol

    I'm always amazed when I hear of someone who's obviously had a successful career, but is new to me! Thank you for making me aware of Maxine Kumin 🙂

  2. Thank you for following, Donna Marie. I'm honored.

    It's bittersweet, posting an obituary. But I want to honor the deceased and their contributions. The work lives on and can still offer so much to readers.

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