Jennifer L. Knox’s tribute to Galway Kinnell appears in ‘The Los Angeles Review of Books’

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On November 3, English department lecturer Jennifer L. Knox recalled her brief encounter with legendary American poet Galway Kinnell in The Los Angeles Review of Books. She joined notable poets such as C. Dale Young and Natalie Diaz in paying tribute to one of the 20th century’s greatest poets. This fall, Knox’s new poems appear in the journals Ampersand Review, The Awl, BODY, The Equalizer, Luna Luna, and Ping-Pong: The Literary Journal of the Henry Miller Library.


Knox’s reflection of meeting Kinnell, published in LARB:

"Galway Kinnell was a guest lecturer in a craft of poetry class I was taking at NYU. There was no announcement that he would be filling in, so finding this seven-foot-tall stranger in our classroom was surreal. He was gigantic — especially his ears and head from which his stiff hair stood out like a panda’s. I had no idea who he was, and he did not bother introducing himself. “I’m here because your teacher is sick,” he said, as if we were in kindergarten. He said he wanted to read some poems that everyone thought were great but actually weren’t. He passed out a Xerox of "Leda and the Swan" and read it aloud. After hearing one line in his resonant voice, I knew the old man was a serious pro — a ringer. “Who is that?” I asked the student sitting next to me. “Galway Kinnell,” she whispered and rolled her eyes. "A lot of these lines are just terrible, right?" he asked. We all looked painfully confused. Finally someone read a line from the poem as a kind of question: "The feathered glory from her loosening thighs"? He nodded and grinned, "Bingo." I’d never had permission to think Yeats was anything other than perfect. He spent the remainder of the class talking about classic poems. He’d us questions but could rarely hear the shy students’ answers. "What?" he ‘d ask once, twice, shrug, and then ask another question. I was dazzled by the grace with which he navigated all those words he could not hear. Three years later, his poem "Shelley" appeared in The New Yorker, a poem about the destructiveness of appetites, penned by such a seeming gentle giant, and I knew: he had indeed heard it all.

— Jennifer L. Knox