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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 BA from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an MA 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 (Graywolf Press, 1993), Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press, 1986), and From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978)—, as well as a book of translation, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Ally Press, 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 from leukemia, on April 22.


Bibliography

Poetry
Otherwise: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1996)
Constance (Graywolf Press, 1993)
Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990)
The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press,1986)
Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Ally Press, 1985)
From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978)

Prose
A Hundred White Daffodils: Essays, Interviews, the Akhmatova Translations, Newspaper Columns, and One Poem (Graywolf Press, 1999)

Happiness

There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.

No, happiness is the uncle you never
knew about, who flies a single-engine plane
onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes
into town, and inquires at every door
until he finds you asleep midafternoon
as you so often are during the unmerciful
hours of your despair.

It comes to the monk in his cell.
It comes to the woman sweeping the street
with a birch broom, to the child
whose mother has passed out from drink.
It comes to the lover, to the dog chewing
a sock, to the pusher, to the basketmaker,
and to the clerk stacking cans of carrots
in the night.
       It even comes to the boulder
in the perpetual shade of pine barrens,
to rain falling on the open sea,
to the wineglass, weary of holding wine.

From The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices From the Robert Frost Place. Used with permission of CavanKerry Press.

From The Breath of Parted Lips: Voices From the Robert Frost Place. Used with permission of CavanKerry Press.

Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon

Jane Kenyon was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1947. During her lifetime she published four books of poetry—: Constance (Graywolf Press, 1993), Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press, 1986), and From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978)—, as well as a book of translation, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Ally Press, 1985).

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

          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
poem
I washed a load of clothes
and hung them out to dry.
Then I went up to town
and busied myself all day.
The sleeve of your best shirt
rose ceremonious
when I drove in; our night-
clothes twined and untwined in
a little gust of wind.

For me it was getting late;
for you, where you were, not.
The harvest moon was