Perhaps the most enduring poet of his generation, Stanley Kunitz once observed that “poetry is for the sake of the life.” Based on his mother’s recently recovered memoir, diary and letters, Judith Ferrara’s A Feast of Losses offers fresh and intimate insights into both her own and her son’s lives.
Yetta Dine emigrated from Lithuania to New York’s Lower East Side in 1890 and learned the garment trade before moving to Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1893 to marry Solomon Kunitz. Readers will have an unprecedented opportunity to hear Yetta’s own voice, understand her story and explore the influence she had on Stanley Kunitz as a poet and a person.
In the foreground is her complex relationship with her brilliant son. As her experiences unfold in her writing, they become touchstones to current debates about immigration and death with dignity. A central question is: What happened in Worcester, Massachusetts, to transform a hopeful, independent woman into a bereft, even tragic woman of reduced circumstances? Yetta’s voice is an astonishing discovery; she lacked fame or a formal education but was a skilled and lively storyteller.
Who was this woman, immortalized as the mother in “The Portrait” who “slapped me hard” when Stanley found his dead father’s portrait in the attic? Yetta’s original papers and the striking details of her life have emerged against all odds—a story within a story.
Judith Ferrara, Ph.D., holds degrees from the University of New Hampshire, Fitchburg State University and the State University College at Buffalo. Her publications in the field of education include Peer Mediation: Finding a Way to Care (Stenhouse Publishers). Her poems, essays and artwork have appeared in three collections and in journals. She received a Worcester Cultural Commission/Massachusetts Cultural Council Creative Arts Fellowship in 2003. In 2018, she received the Stanley Kunitz Medal from the Worcester County Poetry Association.
Ferrara lives in Worcester, Massachusetts, with her husband John Gaumond.