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Yin by Carolyn Kizer: A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Collection

Yin by Carolyn Kizer: A Pulitzer Prize-Winning Collection

"Yin" by Carolyn Kizer is a remarkable collection of poems that earned the prestigious Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 1985, marking a significant achievement in Kizer's illustrious career and a milestone in contemporary poetry.


"Yin: New Poems" is a captivating collection that brings together Carolyn Kizer's profound reflections on cultural intersections, gender dynamics, and philosophical musings. The title poem, "Yin," serves as a linchpin of the collection, exploring the delicate balance between opposing forces and the nuanced interplay of Eastern and Western cultural elements.

Key Themes

  1. Cultural Intersection

    • "Yin" navigates the rich terrain of Eastern and Western cultural exchanges, reflecting Kizer's deep engagement with Chinese literature and philosophy.
  2. Feminism and Gender

    • As a pioneering feminist voice, Kizer examines the roles, expectations, and experiences of women across different societies, bringing a fresh and critical perspective to these enduring issues.
  3. Philosophical Reflections

    • Drawing on the yin-yang concept from Chinese philosophy, the poem contemplates the dualities of human existence, seeking harmony amidst contrasting elements.


Winning the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, "Yin" stands out for its:

  • Cross-Cultural Dialogue

    • The collection is a vital contribution to the ongoing conversation between Eastern and Western literary traditions, enriching both with its insights and reflections.
  • Feminist Perspective

    • Kizer's exploration of women's roles and experiences adds a crucial voice to feminist literary discourse, challenging and expanding the boundaries of the genre.
  • Literary Excellence

    • The Pulitzer Prize recognition underscores the artistic and intellectual achievements of "Yin," cementing Carolyn Kizer's place among the foremost poets of her time.

About Carolyn Kizer

Image of Carolyn Kizer

Carolyn Kizer won the Pulitzer Prize in 1985 for her poetry collection Yin (BOA, 1984). After graduating from Sarah Lawrence College she was a Fellow of the Chinese Government in Comparative Literature at Columbia University. In 1959 she co-founded the prestigious journal Poetry Northwest, which she edited from its inception until 1965. in 1964 - 65 she was a Specialist in Literature for the United States Department of State in Pakistan; and from 1966-1970 she served as the first Director of the Literature Program for the newly created National Endowment for the Arts. In 1995 Kizer was appointed to the post of Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets but resigned three years later to protest the absence of women and minorities on the governing board. Her numerous honors include the Frost Medal, the Theodore Roethke Memorial Poetry Award, and an Academy of Arts and Letters Award. Kizer died in 2014.



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