Kunitz and the Recurrence of Personal Images and Themes in Poetry

When asked if a poet can talk about his own key images that go back to his roots, Stanley Kunitz said, “Not unless he’s very sick, or very foolish …. One oughtn’t try to explain everything away, even if one could. It’s enough to reconcile oneself to the existence of an image from which one never gets very far.”

While I don’t seek out these reoccurring images and themes, like most poets, I think, I find them returning again and again. I do think it’s important to seek out new ways to explore them. We should avoid stagnancy in our thinking, but not the deepening or enriching of a theme, or even its evolution.

Some of the themes I’ve found myself returning to time and again include: feelings of loss from my father’s death, feelings of anxiety that I think stem predominantly from a felt need to protect those around me from the unseen dangers of the world, and this idea of transcendental connection between all of humanity, and even all life. Even today though, I feel myself moving into new themes that I’ve yet to quite pin down.

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