Michele Zackheim: The Sing-Song Passion of Galway Kinnell

Michele Zackheim & Galway Kinnell
photos: Charles Ramsburg (Zackheim); Nancy Carrick Holbert (Kinnell)

It’s National Poetry Month, and the novelist Michele Zackheim (most recently the author of Last Train to Paris examines her love of Galway Kinnell’s “Under the Maud Moon” (first published in 1971’s The Book of Nightmares, a few years after the photo above was taken). Anita Felicelli is also a fan, calling it “the last poem I loved.” As we’ll see, for Zackheim, it’s a personally significant poem on multiple levels…

In 2003, during one of the worst blizzards in New York City history, I met the poet Galway Kinnell at the stage door at Lincoln Center. It was my job to meet the poets invited to participate in “Poems Not Fit for the White House,” an evening of poetry organized by Not in Our Name, a movement against the war in Iraq. The event was created because Laura Bush had invited the poet Sam Hamill to attend a poetry symposium on Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes at the White House. Rather than enter enemy territory, he put out a call for antiwar poems to be sent to Laura Bush in his place. Thousands of poems arrived; the White House was furious and pointedly cancelled his invitation, although Hamill had already said no. Thus the poets’ movement against the war was created—and I met Galway Kinnell.

He was 76 at the time, three years older than I am now. I was so impressed that he had trekked into the city from the snowbound wilds of Vermont. (Now, of course, I would look upon it as a minor accomplishment, because I would do the same.)

After I had introduced myself and showed him to where he would be sitting, we talked. “What poem have you chosen to read?” I asked.

“The one about my son Fergus, my second child, and getting him milk in the middle of the night.”

I remember taking hold of his tweedy arm. “Oh, please change your mind and read ‘Under the Maud Moon’!”

“My dear,” he said. “If I had known, I would have brought it with me. So sorry. Why is it that poem that you like?”

And I froze, unable to articulate my feelings. I stumbled and faltered and was saved by the bell. It was Kinnell’s turn to read.


6 April 2014 | guest authors |

Life Stories #66: Kelly Corrigan

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Life Stories: Kelly Corrigan
photo: Betsy Barnes

It’s been a few weeks since I posted a new episode of Life Stories, the podcast where I talk to memoir writers about their lives and the art of writing memoir—I’ve been settling into a new job—but I’ve been conducting interviews this whole time, and I’m looking forward to presenting them to you in the weeks ahead. First up: Kelly Corrigan talks about Glitter and Glue, in which she recalls a post-college trip to Australia in the early 1990s that compelled her to begin reevaluating the mother she’d just spent her adolescence rebelling against…a process that would continue up to the present day. But as Corrigan explained during our conversation:

“I still don’t totally get her, and we still aren’t natural best friends that sit around and just gab all day. I often feel confounded by her. But I don’t care anymore. It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I’m not trying to change her anymore. I don’t want her to be more outgoing, or more spendy, or more liberal, or more like me. I think that the way she is is fine, and she has every right to be that way.”

Find out what happened in Australia twenty years ago, what prompted Corrigan to write about it now, and how she’s been recreating her mother’s role as the family “glue” with her own children… and more, in this episode of Life Stories

Listen to Life Stories #66: Kelly Corrigan (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

1 April 2014 | life stories |

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