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The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden
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The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden

4.52 of 5 stars 4.52  ·  rating details  ·  257 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Throughout his life (1905-2006) Stanley Kunitz created poetry and tended gardens. This book is the distillation of conversations, none previously published, that took place between 2002 and 2004. Beginning with the garden, that "work of the imagination," the explorations journey through personal recollections, the creative process, and the harmony of the life cycle. A bouq ...more
Paperback, 144 pages
Published April 1st 2007 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 2005)
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Nicole Kapise-Perkins
I have never read any of Stanley Kunitz's poetry before finding this book. This volume is a collection of essays interspersed with poems, written when Kunitz was one hundred years old, reflecting on garden life and metamorphosis. He draws parallels between tending the garden and tending the poetic spirit; Kunitz likens the cultivation and nurturing of plants to the creation and construction of a poem, all the while making the two so real, a tangible process that the mind and heart can fully und ...more
Trisha
Stanley Kunitz will certainly be remembered as one of our most beloved, as well as distinguished, poets. He was the recipient of many prestigious awards including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for poetry. He was over one hundred years old when he died in 2006 and all throughout his life he was a gardener as well as a poet because he associated both gardening and poetry with the whole experience of being alive. “One of the mysteries of gardening,” he says, “is that the garden ref ...more
Barry
The ultimate combination of gifts to be bestowed upon man - that of being an accomplished gardener and a poet. I do not think there is any greater achievement in life, and it is one that I have secretly been harbouring and hoping for myself! Stanley Kunitz lived to be one hundred years old, and in that time he created a living legacy, both with his garden, and the bouquet of poems that he has left behind. Forget the unending spew of mass market book a year authors, and come bask in the quiet sol ...more
Wendy
This lovingly composed book - a mix of poems, reflections, dialogue, photographs - is like a stroll through the garden with this great soul. Dedicated gardeners in particular may want to keep it by the bedside to read a little at a time. One example:

"The compost pile is a site of transformation, taking what has been cast off and returning it to the garden. It's not just garbage, after all.

"The distillation of any philosophy of composting has some connection with the positive concept of waste a
...more
Deborah Feingold
Kunitz helps the reader appreciate not only the importance of the garden as "wilderness" but of the necessity of accessing one's own wilderness, or unconscious, when composing poetry. I also loved his thoughts, linked metaphorically to his experience in the garden, about what is important to a poem. Rather than the showy flower, he is more interested in the underlying structure, the "tensions and physicality." Finally this hybrid text, which presents many candid pictures of the hale nonagenarian ...more
Kitty
A treasure of a book to read and read again. Given to me for my 57th birthday, and in this year of much summer rain, the poems, reflections and discussions of the book, match the energy of my garden --
which says, "I am not done with my changes" -- and invites living in the layers. Check out Stanley Kunitz reading "Touch Me" on Youtube and you will tremble. We discussed "The Long Boat" 9/28/09, "An Old Cracked Tune" and "the Testing Tree" yesterday. Haunting music for the dance -- whether flying
...more
Michael
This was a lovely, insightful little book. Using his literal garden and the garden as metaphor, the poet reflects on writing and on life. The first half (plus) of the book meditates on gardening and how it is very much like writing. His poems are wound throughout. The last part of the book is a meditation on death and dying. Each part is lovely and beautiful and true. Beautiful color photographs of the poet in his garden are scattered throughout. I’m so very glad I read it.
Molly
This is a gorgeous, perfect book! The poems, which are classic, fit perfectly with the conversations throughout which they are interspersed. The whole idea and execution of this book is just really, really commendable--I want to read it over and over and over again; it's pleasurable down to the texture of the pages. Kunitz's ideas concerning poetry, gardening, and his life story are so unified, how he sees them as all parts of the same thing. I stumbled upon this book at a poetry reading in a ma ...more
Jann
I heard Stanley Kunitz himself read "The Long Boat" on NPR on his 100th birthday, and was so moved I had to pull my car over to the side of the road. Since then, he has been my favorite poet. He, like me, was a "licker of the earth"---a person who truly loved life. This beautiful book of his thoughts on his garden, interspersed with his poems, and transcripts was an exquisite reading experience for me. I am also a gardener. How wonderful to have an entire century of bringing beauty to the earth ...more
Carolynz
A friend told me to look into Kunitz writing about gardens....and well this one is near perfect.

Kunitz was at the end of his life when this was being put together.
It is part poetry collection, part interview and a thoughtful meditation on what it is to quietly garden through out your life. The photos of Kunitz among his plants- hands fresh with dirt and clasped behind his back, are as moving as the poems.
Amanda
A beautiful idea for a book, Kunitz's poems are interspersed with his reflections how his experience with the natural world-- how he came to see his place & his memories within a cosmic pattern-- shapes his life, and therefore, his writing. Very simple but moving, I think this is an especially interesting read for writers because it contextualizes how all themes are dug straight from a muddy, emotional well.
Therese
"The Wild Braid" is NOT a how-to handbook of gardening or poetry. It's an eloquent, elegant, and erotic ("What makes the engine go? / Desire, desire, desire.") ceremonial object: a Creativity Testament with ravishing photos, searing poems, and fearsome revelations about living and dying. I will honor Mr. Kunitz's principle that poems & gardens are most vital when they keep some secrets: I will say no more.
Leisha Wharfield
Dec 24, 2009 Leisha Wharfield rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poetry lovers and gardeners
Recommended to Leisha by: Roz
Thanks to Roz for loaning me this book. I immediately bought another copy as a gift. Stanley Kunitz, that old fossil, tells us all about his near-death experience and how it transforms him. He discusses the genesis of several of his poems with the interviewer, after which each poem is printed. The photos are rich and I recommend this book highly for poetry lovers and gardeners.
Patti K
This charming 2005 book was written when the poet was in his late 90's
and is full of vigor and beauty. It is more of a meditation than memoir,
centering on his love of gardening and poetry. Poems are included as well
as some interviews along with the meditations. A reflective and vibrant
look at an individual making a soul through passions and art.
Melody
Kunitz in old age is a force of nature, a conduit for purity of language. The only (minor) jarring note in here is a bit of dialogue toward the end where the interviewer comes too much to the fore. The meditations on gardening, on process, on dying and living and love are nearly as lovely as the poetry. Highly recommended.
Shirley
A wonderful book. I so enjoyed reading of Stanley Kunitz's life in his garden. The poetry is beautiful but I got lots of tips on writing as well. He must have been an incredible person, someone you just wish you knew personally. A very warm, loving and extremely feeling read. You know this man loved life.
Sarah
I read this autobiographical poetry book while on vacation and it was a perfect(re)introduction to Cape Cod. Poet Kunitz lived in Provincetown, CC and loved the place. He passed away last year at the age of 100 after spending most all his life writing and editing. Beautiful book!
Laura
Lovely, lovely, lovely. Life, vitality, joy in the world, death, poetry and plant cycles. Part poetry, part reflective journal, part interview, part photography. So glad for the experience. A big "thank you for sharing" to Mr. Kunitz.



Sandy D.
Interesting short combination of essays, an interview, photographs, and poetry by a 99 y.o. poet - he had an incredible garden in Provincetown, MA.

Themes include creativity, wilderness vs. domestication, death, and wildlife.
Clay
Because of the beauty of this book, I've created a shelf of All-Time Favorites. His true story of taming the owls is miraculous, in a book full of wonders. Five stars not enough.
Kathy
Kunitz has changed my thinking about gardening, and deepened, confirmed, and changed my thinking about poetry. Some really wonderful insights about death as well. Bravo!
Jana
This book was gifted to me by a dear friend. His musings on writing and gardening are as interesting as his poetry, and applicable to all creative pursuits. Very inspiring.
Sarah
I actually read this in Provincetown, where Kunitz had one of his gardens. The interviews with him, and photos of his garden and him gardening put the poetry in perspective.
Kristen
One of the most beautiful and helpful books I've read about writing poetry. Oh, and all the gardening stuff was gorgeous, too. Contains my favorite poem, "Layers".
Kerry
I did not want this book to end. Truly inspiring. I recommend The Wild Braid for any poet or gardener or simple soul interested in living a full and examined life.
Emily
Aug 06, 2007 Emily rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Vanessa Mabin!
Warren and Catherine put me on to this book, a mix of poems and reflections on life and gardening as a metaphor and as an activity, and it was lovely.
Doug
Read for a second time in 2012. It may have to be an annual read - as dad always read Anne Morrow Lindbergh's "Gift from the Sea" each year.
Linda
Really appreciated Stanley's interpretation of his garden through his poetry which seems to have kept him living as long as he did.
Lindsey
honest, if not a little forceful and egotistical, but he's gifted in poetry and a lover of gardens, so I liked it very much.
Brian
Incredibly sweet, quiet, with photos that didn't capture the whole garden in a way I wanted as I was reading.
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Stanley Jasspon Kunitz was an American poet. He was appointed Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress twice, first in 1974 and then again in 2000.
More about Stanley Kunitz...
The Collected Poems Passing Through: The Later Poems, New and Selected The Poems, 1928-1978 Next-to-Last Things: New Poems and Essays Selected Poems, 1928-1958

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