Stanley Kunitz died Sunday at the age of 100. There’s a good selection of links at wood s lot; I’ll just provide this wonderful poem (nicely discussed by Loren Webster here):

The Thing That Eats the Heart

The thing that eats the heart comes wild with years.
It died last night, or was it wounds before,
But somehow crawls around, inflamed with need,
Jingling its medals at the fang-scratched door.

We were not unprepared: with lamp and book
We sought the wisdom of another age
Until we heard the action of the bolt.
A little wind investigates the page.

No use pretending to the pitch of sleep;
By turnings we are known, our times and dates
Examined in the courts of either/or
While armless griefs mount lewd and headless doubts.

It pounces in the dark, all pity-ripe,
An enemy as soft as tears or cancer,
In whose embrace we fall, as to a sickness
Whose toxins in our cells cry sin and danger.

Hero of crossroads, how shall we defend
This creature-lump whose charity is art
When its own self turns Christian-cannibal?
The thing that eats the heart is mostly heart.

(From the NY Times obit, a grim reminder of how things were in this country within living memory: “He began writing poetry at the suggestion of a professor, then set out to earn a doctorate at Harvard. But on being told that he would not be offered a lectureship because the Anglo-Saxon students would resent being taught English literature by a Jew, he dropped out of the program in 1927 after completing the requirements for his master’s degree.”)


  1. Yes, RIP, to ole Stanley, a growler of a cantankerous poet and critic. Also, wasn’t he married to, to me, hot woman, Shirley Jackson?
    Yep, what a man! 100 is long enough. Heart eats heart is truly Stanley at his cleverest and a clever m-f-er he was, too.
    A tip of a half-eaten heart to Stanley from a growler whose poetry boils within his solar plexus’s cauldron surrounded by all the witchy Shirley Jacksons I’ve played tag with over the years, all stirring madly to concoct the brew that will devour the rest of my heart one day.
    A jigger of Jameson’s Gold is tossed back in his honor. Hell, he deserves another couple’a jiggers, I should think.
    Ur friend,

  2. Language Hat, the link to the discussion does not work.

  3. You mean the link to Loren’s blog? It does for me; anybody else have a problem with it?

  4. Growlingwolf: Nope, that was Stanley Edgar Hyman (married to Shirley Jackson), the New York critic who wrote the excellent “The Armed Vision”. Brutal on Edmund Wilson and Yvor Winters.

  5. Being brutal to Bunny is shooting fish in a barrel.

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