poem index

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)

Three Songs at the End of Summer

Jane Kenyon, 1947 - 1995
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.

Across the lake the campers have learned   
to water-ski. They have, or they haven’t.   
Sounds of the instructor’s megaphone   
suffuse the hazy air. “Relax! Relax!”

Cloud shadows rush over drying hay,   
fences, dusty lane, and railroad ravine.   
The first yellowing fronds of goldenrod   
brighten the margins of the woods.

Schoolbooks, carpools, pleated skirts;   
water, silver-still, and a vee of geese.

*

The cicada’s dry monotony breaks   
over me. The days are bright   
and free, bright and free.

Then why did I cry today   
for an hour, with my whole   
body, the way babies cry?

*

A white, indifferent morning sky,   
and a crow, hectoring from its nest   
high in the hemlock, a nest as big   
as a laundry basket....
                                    In my childhood   
I stood under a dripping oak,
while autumnal fog eddied around my feet,   
waiting for the school bus
with a dread that took my breath away.

The damp dirt road gave off   
this same complex organic scent.

I had the new books—words, numbers,   
and operations with numbers I did not   
comprehend—and crayons, unspoiled   
by use, in a blue canvas satchel
with red leather straps.

Spruce, inadequate, and alien   
I stood at the side of the road.   
It was the only life I had.

Jane Kenyon, "Three Songs at the End of Summer" 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
"Give me some light!" cries Hamlet's
uncle midway through the murder
of Gonzago. "Light! Light!" cry scattering
courtesans. Here, as in Denmark,
it's dark at four, and even the moon
shines with only half a heart.

The ornaments go down into the box:
the silver spaniel, My Darling
on its collar, from
poem
Rebuked, she turned and ran
uphill to the barn. Anger, the inner   
arsonist, held a match to her brain.   
She observed her life: against her will   
it survived the unwavering flame.

The barn was empty of animals.   
Only a swallow tilted
near the beams, and bats
hung from the rafters
the roof sagged between
poem

For Caroline

Christ has been done to death
in the cold reaches of northern Europe
a thousand thousand times. 
                         Suddenly bread
and cheese appear on a plate
beside a gleaming pewter beaker of beer.

Now tell me that the Holy Ghost
does not reside in the play of light
on