cover image Hundred White Daffodils

Hundred White Daffodils

Jane Kenyon. Graywolf Press, $23.95 (248pp) ISBN 978-1-55597-291-2

As carefully culled and tended as the New England flower gardens that Kenyon, a poet who died of leukemia in 1995, wrote about with such bone-aching clarity, this collection of sundry, posthumous prose and poetry illuminates a little-known corner of her oeuvre. Kenyon's introduction to the Akhmatova translations is discouraging: she offers a tepid account of Akhmatova's life and ends with disclaimer upon disclaimer warning that Akhmatova's trademark ""beautiful clarity"" will be lost in her English renditions. What a thrill, then, to find such beauty and density of feeling in the skillfully controlled translations. Kenyon's sharply realized if understated short essays originally published in a local New Hampshire newspaper are also noteworthy; in them, she revisits the terrain of her poems, particularly such themes as religion, gardening and the regenerative force of nature. In the transcripts of Kenyon's interviews with Bill Moyers, David Bradt and Marian Blue, there is a determined poignancy. The woman who comes to life in these pages is witty, guileless, humble and heartbreakingly intelligent. One is left wanting more, as if continuing the interviews could restore this vibrant person to life. The final installment in this volume is the unfinished poem, ""Woman Why Are You Weeping,"" startling in its deft foray into religious faith, Third-World crisis and race relations. Like much of Kenyon's work, it is at once irresistible and devastating. It is quite clear why the poet felt such kinship for Akhmatova, for she, too, has achieved a ""beautiful clarity."" (Sept.)