poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Jane Kenyon was born on May 23, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in the Midwest. She earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an M.A. in 1972. That same year, Kenyon married the poet Donald Hall, whom she had met while a student at the University of Michigan. With him she moved to Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire. During her lifetime Jane Kenyon published four books of poetry—Constance (1993), Let Evening Come (1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986), and From Room to Room (1978)—and a book of translation, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1985). In December 1993 she and Donald Hall were the subject of an Emmy Award-winning Bill Moyers documentary, "A Life Together." In 1995 Kenyon was named poet laureate of New Hampshire; she died later that year, on April 22, from leukemia.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

A Hundred White Daffodils: Essays, Interviews, the Akhmatova Translations, Newspaper Columns, and One Poem (1999)
Otherwise: New & Selected Poems (1996)
Constance (1993)
Let Evening Come (1990)
The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986)
Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (1985)
From Room to Room (1978)

Afternoon at MacDowell

Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995
On a windy summer day the well-dressed
trustees occupy the first row
under the yellow and white striped canopy.
Their drive for capital is over,
and for a while this refuge is secure.

Thin after your second surgery, you wear
the gray summer suit we bought eight 
years ago for momentous occasions
in warm weather. My hands rest in my lap,
under the fine cotton shawl embroidered
with mirrors that we bargained for last fall
in Bombay, unaware of your sickness.

The legs of our chairs poke holes
in the lawn. The sun goes in and out
of the grand clouds, making the air alive
with golden light, and then, as if heaven’s
spirits had fallen, everything’s somber again.

After music and poetry we walk to the car. 
I believe in the miracles of art, but what
prodigy will keep you safe beside me, 
fumbling with the radio while you drive
to find late innings of a Red Sox game? 

Jane Kenyon, "Afternoon at MacDowell" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.

Jane Kenyon, "Afternoon at MacDowell" from Collected Poems. Copyright © 2005 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Reprinted with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc., on behalf of Graywolf Press, graywolfpress.org.

Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon was born on May 23, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew

by this poet

poem

If many remedies are prescribed for an illness, you may be certain that the illness has no cure.

A. P. CHEKHOV The Cherry Orchard

  1  FROM THE NURSERY


When I was born, you waited 
behind a pile of linen in the nursery, 
and when we
poem
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles 
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver
poem
I divested myself of despair
and fear when I came here.

Now there is no more catching
one's own eye in the mirror,

there are no bad books, no plastic,
no insurance premiums, and of course

no illness. Contrition 
does not exist, nor gnashing

of teeth. No one howls as the first
clod of earth hits the casket.