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Galway Kinnell



In the department of inspiring people, I want to note that one of my favorite poets, Galway Kinnell, passed away at the age of 87. I met him at an art retreat at a place called Menucha, east of Portland, Ore., in 1979. He was 52 at the time and seemed to be vibrating with vitality and creative energy. He did a reading for us, a small group of artists and writers. It was a reading I will never forget at which he read: The Bear, a brilliant poem about life life, art and suffering. Another of his poems that is one of my all-time favorites is St. Francis and the Sow. I have read it many times at lectures for my book, This is Who I Am. I is a powerful statement about finding beauty in every living being.

St. Francis and the Sow

The bud
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as Saint Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of the tail,
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the sheer blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.

From A New Selected Poems by Galway Kinnell, published by Houghton Mifflin; copyright © 2000 by Galway Kinnell


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