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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)

Portrait of a Figure Near Water

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.

Her breath became steady
where, years past, the farmer cooled   
the big tin amphoræ of milk.
The stone trough was still
filled with water: she watched it   
and received its calm.

So it is when we retreat in anger:   
we think we burn alone
and there is no balm.
Then water enters, though it makes   
no sound.

Jane Kenyon, "Portrait of a Figure Near Water" 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, "Portrait of a Figure Near Water" 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 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

          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
A volunteer, a Daughter of the Confederacy,
receives my admission and points the way.
Here are gray jackets with holes in them,
red sashes with individual flourishes,
things soft as flesh. Someone sewed
the gold silk cord onto that gray sleeve
as if embellishments
could keep a man alive.

I have been reading 
poem
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