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Jane Kenyon, Author, Donald Hall, Afterword by
Jane Kenyon, Author, Donald Hall, Afterword by Graywolf Press $23.95 (240p) ISBN 978-1-55597-240-0
Reviewed on: 03/04/1996
Release date: 03/01/1996
Paperback - 230 pages - 978-1-55597-266-0
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Kenyon's poetry is honest and earnest, rich in imagery yet free of clutter. Always technically proficient, her early poems were not always memorable, but her questioning of the value of life has been consistent: ""And I knew then/ that I would have to live, and go on/ living: what a sorrow it was...."" (""Evening Sun,"" from her second collection, The Boat of Quiet Hours, 1986). Coming of age at a time when psychiatry often was a useful poet's appliance, Kenyon works her way through superficial gloom to expose a widely familiar sadness. Sorrow begins with childhood, the 10-year-old experiencing a joy ""so violent/ it was hard to distinguish from pain."" Kenyon died of leukemia in April 1995 at age 47. The poems in this volume, being published on the first anniversary of her death, were selected by the poet; her husband, poet Donald Hall, offers an afterword. New poems, gathered in the first section, focus with unsentimental, entirely credible directness on her pending death. In ""Eating the Cookies,"" the poet cleans a closet while nibbling on cookies sent by a cousin: ""...the largest cookie,/ which I had saved for last, lay/ solitary in the tin with a nimbus/ of crumbs around it. There would be no more/ parcels from Portland. I took it up/ and sniffed it, and before eating it,/ pressed it against my forehead, because/ it seemed like the next thing to do."" This collection is generous, cohesive and moving. (Apr.)
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