Kumin was born Maxine Winokur of Jewish parents in Philadelphia and educated at Radcliffe. She has written poetry, criticism, fiction, and more than twenty children's books, including four coauthored with Anne Sexton, and taught at Tufts, Massachusetts, and Princeton. Kumin spends much of her time in rural New Hampshire, where she raises horses. Although she has often written about middle-class suburban experience, seeking survival and continuity in the vestiges of nature it encompasses, she has also made harsh and witty appraisals of rural life. Her sharp irony, her New England settings, and her use of traditional forms make comparisons with Frost both inevitable and reasonable. The easy linking of her with transcendentalism is less warranted, in part because Kumin rarely seeks lyrical transcendence of any kind, preferring stoical observation instead. She has also written sympathetically about women's lives and taken on public topics like famine, pollution, and nuclear war.