Saturday, September 5, 2015

"The Pawnbroker's Daughter," by Maxine Kumin

Maxine Kumin’s posthumous memoir, “The Pawnbroker’s Daughter” (W.W. Norton, 2015), reminds me a bit of Gail Godwin’s memoir, which I posted on a few days ago (8/22/15). They are both slim volumes, focused on both the writers’lives and their writing. The two writers are about half a generation apart in age: Kumin was born in 1925 and died in 2014; Godwin was born in 1937. Kumin was mainly a poet but also wrote fiction and essays; she was a U.S. poet laureate and won a Pulitzer Prize. Godwin is a novelist who has also written in other genres; she too has won various awards and honors. Both had supportive husbands; Kumin’s survived her, while Godwin’s died a few years ago. Both liked living or at least regularly retreating outside of cities, although Kumin’s situation was much more isolated and rural; she and her husband created a horse farm where they happily raised their family. Of course these two wonderful writers’ biggest commonality was/is their intense devotion to their writing. In “The Pawnbroker’s Daughter,” Kumin wrote fairly chronologically, describing her childhood, her meeting of and long marriage to her husband, her poetry, and her life on the farm. Although she does not dwell on it, we also see her strong feelings about politics and especially about women’s lives; she was a feminist, an environmentalist, and an activist. Throughout, Kumin shares some of her wonderful poetry, as well as evocative photographs.
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