Synopses & Reviews
Jane Kenyon, who was married to the poet Donald Hall, earned wide acclaim for her clear, vivid, deeply spiritual lyrics, many of them written in the face of her own -mortality.
During the year of her dying, Carruth’s faithful correspondence, collected here, is a testament to the depth of their friendship, and a rare window into the inner life of a major poet as he confronts the loss of a dear friend. Both Carruth and Kenyon have devoted followings; Letters to Jane offers unique and personal new insight into their poetry.
Of this book, Francine Prose has written, “Reading these beautiful, eloquent, moving letters from one poet to another, you keep forgetting (as you are meant to) even as, paradoxically, it never leaves your mind for a moment, that this is no casual correspondence. Its occasion is urgent and extraordinary. The recipient is dying.
“. . . Carruth writes again and again—honest, direct, affectionate accounts of everyday events: writing and reading, visiting friends, traveling to give poetry readings, enjoying good moods and good health, enduring physical and emotional setbacks, feeding the dog and watching bee balm bloom in the garden.
What’s most mysterious and marvelous about these letters—which end around the time of Kenyon’s death in 1995—is how they manage to be, simultaneously, so relaxed and so intense, so concrete and so reflective, and how every word and every sentence reminds us of the preciousness of ordinary life, and of the enduring and -sustaining consolations of friendship.”
Hayden Carruth is the author of more than 20 books, predominantly poetry. His work has been awarded many honors, including the National Book Award, the Lenore Marshall Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Whiting Award, the Ruth Lilly Prize and a Lannan Literary Fellowship. He has also written widely on jazz and the blues. He lives in Munnsville, NY.
Both Carruth and Kenyon have large established followings. Three Kenyon books (a biography, a critical study, and a Collected poems) are slated for 2005, which should stir further interest.
Cultural Writing. Letters. The poet Jane Kenyon earned wide acclaim for her clear, vivid, deeply spiritual lyrics, many of them written in the face of her own mortality. During the year of her dying, Hayden Carruth's faithful correspondence, collected here, gives us rare insight into the inner life of a major poet as he confronts the loss of a dear friend. Kind, consoling, passionate, and at times wickedly funny, these letters transcend the personal, offering an extended meditation on age and death, and on the art of poetry.
About the Author
Hayden Carruth was born on August 3, 1921, in Waterbury, Connecticut, and educated at both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Chicago, where he earned a master's degree. His first collection of poems, The Crow and the Heart, was published in 1959. Since then, he published more than thirty books, including Toward the Distant Islands: New and Selected Poems (Copper Canyon Press, 2006) and Doctor Jazz: Poems 1996-2000 (2001). Other poetry titles include Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey: Poems, 1991-1995 (1996), which received the National Book Award for Poetry; Collected Longer Poems (1994); Collected Shorter Poems, 1946-1991 (1992), which received the National Book Critics' Circle Award; The Sleeping Beauty (1990); and Tell Me Again How the White Heron Rises and Flies Across Nacreous River at Twilight Toward the Distant Islands (1989). Known also for his criticism, Carruth is the author of several prose collections, including Selected Essays and Reviews (Copper Canyon Press, 1996) and Sitting In: Selected Writings on Jazz, Blues, and Related Topics (1993), as well as nonfiction works, including Beside the Shadblow Tree: A Memoir of James Laughlin (Copper Canyon Press, 1999) and Reluctantly: Autobiographical Essays (1998). He is also the author of a novel, Appendix A (1963), and has edited a number of anthologies, including The Voice That Is Great Within Us: American Poetry of the Twentieth Century (Bantam, 1970). Informed by his political radicalism and sense of cultural responsibility, many of Carruth's best-known poems are about the people and places of northern Vermont, as well as rural poverty and hardship. About Carruth and his work, the poet Galway Kinnell has said, "This is not a man who sits down to 'write a poem'; rather, some burden of understanding and feeling, some need to know, forces his poems into being. Thoreau said, 'Be it life or death, what we crave is reality.' So it is with Carruth. And even in hell, knowledge itself bestows a halo around the consciousness with, at moments, attains it." Carruth received fellowships from the Bollingen Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 1995 Lannan Literary Fellowship. He was presented with the Lenore Marshall Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, the Vermont Governor's Medal, the Carl Sandburg Award, the Whiting Award, and the Ruth Lilly Prize, among many others. He taught at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and at the Graduate Creative Writing Program at Syracuse University. Carruth lived in Vermont for many years before residing in Munnsville, New York, with his wife, the poet Joe-Anne McLaughlin Carruth. He died September 29, 2008.