(Reuters) - Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Galway Kinnell died on Tuesday at his home in Vermont after battling leukemia, his wife said on Wednesday. He was 87.
Kinnell’s published work spanned five decades and dealt with a wide spectrum of subjects, from the texture of urban life to immortality.
His wife, Barbara Bristol, said on Wednesday that one of Kinnell’s greatest honors was being named the poet laureate of Vermont in 1989, making him the successor to Robert Frost.
“He worked very hard at it ... It meant a lot that his poetry was in the minds and heart of Vermonters,” Bristol said in a telephone interview from their home in the remote town of Sheffield, in the state’s Northeast Kingdom region.
Former Vermont governor Madeleine Kunin, who named Kinnell poet laureate, told Vermont Public Radio in August that he resembled Frost “in that he also appears accessible on the surface, yet mysterious when we probe underneath.”
Kinnell was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of a Scottish immigrant father and an Irish immigrant mother.
For much of his life, Kinnell divided his time between Vermont and New York City, where he was the director of the creative writing program at New York University, according to an obituary in the New York Times.
Among his teaching posts was one that took him to Tehran and inspired his only novel “Black Light,” according to the Times.
The poem considered his breakthrough is his 1960 work “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of Christ Into the New World,” about Avenue C in Manhattan’s East Village.
His book “Selected Poems” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1983.
In addition to his wife, Kinnell is survived by a son, a daughter and two grandchildren.
Reporting by Ted Siefer in Lowell, Mass.; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Bill Trott