Galway Kinnell at Breakfast: Secret Country Interview, Redux

Some things are planned; some fall into your lap. Getting ready to cross-post my secret country interview with Galway Kinnell to my Psychology Today blog, I came across a link of Kinnell reading a poem called Oatmeal. I was intrigued. I bit. And the taste was inspired coincidence. Here’s what I wrote in response:

Many consider the poet Galway Kinnell, who died last October at age 87, to be one of those rare and serious talents who come along only once or twice in a generation. And yet Kinnell was not above a certain down-to-earth whimsy tied, at least in part, to the playful invention of imagined people and places.

Take Oatmeal as a case in point. If you listen to or watch Kinnell read this poem, you’ll hear lots of laughter from his audience. You’ll also hear him call upon the powers of play as he seeks to enliven a breakfast of oatmeal with a little fantasy. It is better for one’s sanity not eat the “glutinous,” “gluey,” “slime” alone and so, he explains,

“That is why I often think up an imaginary companion to have breakfast with.”

Kinnell invites John Keats to dine, only to discover that Keats had similarly invited Edmund Spenser and John Milton to chat over a bowl of oatmeal. As many readers will recognize, Kinnell has much to say in this poem about the writing of poetry. But he is also, quite literally, channeling a wider history of imaginary world invention that often begins in childhood—but does not necessarily end there.

In his memoirs, for instance, fellow poet and writer Robert Louis Stevenson lovingly described his boyhood flights of oatmeal fancy. “When my cousin and I took our porridge of a morning at breakfast, we had a device to enliven the course of the meal,” he wrote. The two envisioned countries buried under the snow of sugar or flooded with the waters of milk. Indeed, from breakfast to dinner, sunrise to sunset, youth to maturity, Stevenson immersed himself in play with imaginary worlds and the imaginary people in them.

Perhaps Kinnell knew of Stevenson’s worldplay. But whether he did or not hardly matters, for he had his own to draw upon. And it was my privilege to hear about it when he participated in Michele’s Worldplay Project…

…At which point, the Secret Country Interview kicks in. You can read the whole new piece as a Psychology Today post or click on my previous post at this website for Kinnell’s worldplay material. Inspirations!

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