Constance

Jane Kenyon, Author Graywolf Press $18 (64p) ISBN 978-1-55597-195-3
The cumulative effect of these quiet, unassuming poems lingers long after this slim volume is closed. Kenyon's ( Let Evening Come ) fourth collection is built around two perfectly orchestrated poem sequences. In the first, the speaker contrasts memories of her baby carriage with other images from her childhood, such as her parents' toiling away at low-paying jobs. She also recalls the present-day life of her aging, increasingly dependent mother. Melancholia, the subject of the second sequence and several poems surrounding it, has been played to death in modern poetry, but still Kenyon offers new insights and gives even the most depressing poems an uplifting lilt in their final lines. In her hands a list of the latest medications becomes fit material for poetry: ``The coated ones smell sweet or have / no smell; the powdery ones smell / like the chemistry lab at school / that made me hold my breath.'' She writes, in addition to illness, of sleep, insomnia and death. She interacts with the insects, birds and flowers in her New Hampshire landscape, relying on their fragility to teach her of her own. Kenyon describes afterlife, or ``the Other Side,'' with the same precise, hard-edged imagery that fills her other poems. (Aug.)
Reviewed on: 08/02/1993
Release date: 08/01/1993
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 64 pages - 978-1-55597-196-0
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