Galway Kinnell, 1927-2014

Galway Kinnell, who died yesterday at the age of 87, with Anne Sexton backstage at the 92d Street Poetry Center, November 11, 1968. (Photograph by Jill Krementz)

Galway Kinnell, who died yesterday at the age of 87, with Anne Sexton backstage at the 92d Street Poetry Center, November 11, 1968. (Photograph by Jill Krementz)

It was a heady time, working at Farrar Straus Giroux in the early 1990s. Roger Straus held court in the office, wearing a cravat, sometimes even in summer. He ate at Union Square Cafe every single day. Famous authors walked in our pitifully small and dank offices and we revered them. Tom Wolfe once left a journal behind and I barely breathed as I bundled it up for the messenger. Spalding Gray once asked me to get him coffee (black). And then there were the poets: Seamus Heaney, Czeslaw Milosz, and Galway Kinnell. The old FSG office on 19 Union Square West is now an NYU dorm, and these poets are all gone too.

Here is a video of Kinnell reading his great poem “Wait.”

Wait, for now.

Distrust everything, if you have to.

But trust the hours. Haven’t they

carried you everywhere, up to now?

Personal events will become interesting again.

Hair will become interesting.

Pain will become interesting.

Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.

Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,

their memories are what give them

the need for other hands. And the desolation

of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness

carved out of such tiny beings as we are

asks to be filled; the need

for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.

Don’t go too early.

You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.

But no one is tired enough.

Only wait a while and listen.

Music of hair,

Music of pain,

music of looms weaving all our loves again.

Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,

most of all to hear,

the flute of your whole existence,

rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.