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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)

Private Beach

Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995
It is always the dispossessed—
someone driving a huge rusted Dodge   
that’s burning oil, and must cost   
twenty-five dollars to fill.

Today before seven I saw, through
the morning fog, his car leave the road,   
turning into the field. It must be
his day off, I thought, or he’s out
of work and drinking, or getting stoned.   
Or maybe as much as anything
he wanted to see
where the lane through the hay goes.

It goes to the bluff overlooking   
the lake, where we’ve cleared   
brush, swept the slippery oak
leaves from the path, and tried to destroy   
the poison ivy that runs
over the scrubby, sandy knolls.

Sometimes in the evening I’ll hear   
gunshots or firecrackers. Later a car   
needing a new muffler backs out
to the road, headlights withdrawing   
from the lowest branches of the pines.

Next day I find beer cans, crushed;   
sometimes a few fish too small   
to bother cleaning and left
on the moss to die; or the leaking   
latex trace of outdoor love....

Once I found the canvas sling chairs   
broken up and burned.

Whoever laid the fire gathered stones   
to contain it, like a boy pursuing
a merit badge, who has a dream of work,   
and proper reward for work.

Jane Kenyon, "Private Beach" 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, "Private Beach" 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
On the domed ceiling God
is thinking:
I made them my joy,
and everything else I created
I made to bless them.
But see what they do!
I know their hearts
and arguments:

“We’re descended from
Cain. Evil is nothing new,
so what does it matter now
if we shell the infirmary,
and the well where the fearful
and rash
poem
We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping. 
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder; 
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish. 
Suddenly I understand that I am happy. 
For months this feeling 
has been coming closer, stopping
for short
poem
A second crop of hay lies cut   
and turned. Five gleaming crows   
search and peck between the rows.
They make a low, companionable squawk,   
and like midwives and undertakers   
possess a weird authority.

Crickets leap from the stubble,   
parting before me like the Red Sea.   
The garden sprawls and spoils