Maxine Kumin

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Obituaries: Maxine Kumin, 88, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet

  • February 7, 2014 - 11:42 PM

Maxine Kumin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet whose spare, deceptively simple lines explored some of the most complex aspects of human existence — birth and death, evanescence and renewal, and the events large and small conjoining them all — died Thursday at her home in Warner, N.H. She was 88.

Her death was announced by her daughter Judith Kumin, who said her mother had been in declining health for the last year and a half.

An author of essays, novels, short stories and children’s books as well as poetry, Kumin was praised by critics for her keen ear for the aural character of verse — the clash and cadence of meter, the ebb and flow of rhyme — and her naturalist’s eye for minute observation.

She was the consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress, as the U.S. poet laureate was then known, from 1981 to 1982; from 1989 to 1994 she was the poet laureate of New Hampshire, where she and her husband, Victor, had lived full-time since the mid-1970s.

Kumin won the Pulitzer in 1973 for “Up Country,” her fourth volume of verse. The book examined life on and around the tumbledown New Hampshire farm the couple had bought in 1963.

George Koch, who led the Grocery Manufacturers of America trade association for a quarter-century and became one of the most influential lobbyists in Washington, died Jan. 26 in Potomac, Md. He was 87.

Koch was once described by the Washington Post as “one of the capital’s most storied lobbyists.” He came to Washington in 1959 as director of federal affairs for Sears, Roebuck & Co. and joined the grocery group as president and chief executive officer in 1966. He retired in 1990.

Early in his tenure, Koch moved the Grocery Manufacturers of America from New York to Washington. He participated in the effort to create the Universal Product Code, the bar code system used to track store products that was introduced in the early 1970s.

Koch came to greatest public prominence in the 1970s and 1980s in a matter unrelated to his day job. A member of the Congressional Country Club, an elite club in Bethesda, Md., he was told one day by a waitress that she had been fired without a hearing and that the club had been shorting her wages for years.

The encounter led Koch into a yearslong legal battle in which he interviewed dozens of employees and pored over tens of thousands of documents. He concluded that the club had long been skimming the earnings of its largely minority service staff.

Robert A. Dahl, an esteemed and influential political scientist who in such books as “Who Governs?” championed democracy in theory and critiqued it in practice, died Wednesday at a nursing home in Hamden, Conn. He was 98.

A professor emeritus at Yale University, Dahl’s career lasted for more than half a century, but he was best known for the 1961 publication “Who Governs?” Cited by the Times Literary Supplement as among the 100 most influential books since World War II, “Who Governs?” probed the political system of Dahl’s own community at the time, New Haven, which he considered an ideal microcosm for the country: two strong parties, a long history and a careful progression from patrician rule to self-made men to party rule, where candidates of varied ethnic and economic backgrounds — a garage owner, an undertaker, a director of publicity — might succeed.

Gloria Leonard, who became a pornographic film star in her 30s and then a men’s magazine publisher and a prominent spokeswoman for her industry, died Monday in Waimea, Hawaii. She was 73.

The cause was a stroke, said daughter Robin Leonardi.

Leonard took an atypical path into pornographic movies in the 1970s, a time many in the industry now regard as its golden age, when films had story lines and actors enjoyed some crossover appeal with mainstream audiences. She was also a Wall Street broker and publicist.

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