Sometimes a writer simply speaks to your soul. Their words creep into your bones and remind you of forgotten memories and undiscovered hopes. That is how I feel these days reading Maxine Kumin’s collection of essays titled, “Women, Animals, & Vegetables.” I was first introduced to Ms. Kumin’s poetry by my hometown friend who was quite taken by the way she wrote about the life of our shared New England landscape. Having been equally effected by her poems, I picked up her collection of essays when I came across it in a Philly bookstore.
I must admit that, at first, I was a tiny bit skeptical. While the title initially caught my attention (I am a woman, I like animals, I grow vegetables), I found myself questioning whether the compilation was to be yet another tiresome presentation of cultural feminist theory. I tend to proceed with caution when people desire to convince me that females are inherently more connected to the earth because of our childbearing bodies. I wasn’t looking forward to the prospect of reading an entire book espousing these perspectives.
I should have given Maxine Kumin a little more credit. In the end, the title reflects exactly what it is I love about her writing. It is written with straightforward simplicity. Being a woman is a fact rather than an explanation for her emotions. She manages to convey love of her New Hampshire farm life without falling victim to overly sentimental mash or romanticization of the country life that some writers of the pastoral inclination tend towards. Her little vignettes of country living manage to strike the perfect balance; they are at once informative and imaginative.
I will say that it is not a particularly dynamic read. At times it is repetitive and has a propensity to be a tad meandering. However, I like to think of this as “form is content.” Life on a New England farm is often highly repetitive and not particularly dynamic (unless the cows have just escaped into the road) but these are the reasons I love it. Lately, I’ve found myself missing the New England landscape but since I’m not ready to leave my adopted city of Philadelphia I will content myself with experiencing the country through the words of this genuine writer.