IN DEEP: Country Essays by Maxine Kumin
Kirkus Star

IN DEEP: Country Essays

Email this review


A renowned poet offers her views on rural life, from the vantage point of a farm in Warner, New Hampshire. These essays prove her no slouch with prose. The style is plain and straightforward: ""I have too many horses"" is an observation that begins one of the pieces here. But Kumin is also alert for unusual verbal combinations. In another essay, entitled ""Estivating 1973,"" the author compares the experience of worming newborn horses to watching the Watergate hearings on TV: ""We worm the babies in the middle of John Dean's testimony and at last i see a connection."" She pulls no punches about farm dirty-work: ""Although it makes me want to be sick, I count the nematodes in the little ones' shit."" There is some high-spirited, impromptu wit in these thoughts: Kumin joshes a proofreader who corrected the title ""The Poet and the Mule"" to the more decorous but incorrect ""The Poet and the Muse."" Her personalized view of Thoreau is palatable even for those who believe they have heard enough of that writer for a lifetime. Overall, there is a warmth of heart and seriousness of purpose in these essays, much as in Kumin's poetry. Uncommon for her social conscience among today's recognized poetic talents, Kumin is if anything more subtle about her political beliefs in her prose than in her verse. Unlike E.B. White, who offered a view of a highly nervous urban Easterner transplanted into a farm environment, Kumin seems truly to have made her peace with her rural surroundings. She's a sort of May Sarton, who isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. Brief but telling prose; highly recommended.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1987
Publisher: Viking