Synopses & Reviews
collects a lifetime's work by one of contemporary poetry's most cherished talents. Opening with twenty new poems and including generous selections from Jane Kenyon's four previous books—From Room to Room
, The Boat of Quiet Hours
, Let Evening Come
, and Constance
—this collection was selected and arranged by Kenyon herself—alongside her husband, the esteemed poet Donald Hall—shortly before her death in April 1995.
This extensive gathering reveals a scrupulously crafted body of work in which poem after poem achieves a rare and somber grace. Light and shade are never far apart in these telling narratives of life and love and work at the poet's rural New Hampshire home. The shadow of depression in Kenyon's verse, which grew much darker and longer at certain intervals, has the force and heft of a spiritual presence—a god, demon, angel. Yet her work emphasizes the constant effort of her imagination to confront and even find redemption in suffering. However quiet or domesticated or subtle in her moods and methods, Kenyon was a poet who sought to discover the extraordinary within the ordinary, and her poems continue to make this discovery. As Hall writes in the afterword to Otherwise, we share "her joy in the body and the creation, in flowers, music, and paintings, in hayfields and a dog."
"Here was a poet who wrote about traditional subjects—her family, the farm she shared with her husband, the rhythms of the natural world—and yet was celebrated by some of [the twentieth] century's most prominent writers and publishers. Kenyon's work was a model of simplicity: the perfect voice for an age that shuns adornment . . . There is often a strong undertow beneath the smooth exteriors."—Elizabeth Lund, The Christian Science Monitor
"Kenyon's poetry is honest and earnest, rich in imagery yet free of clutter . . . This collection is generous, cohesive, and moving."—Publishers Weekly
"Jane Kenyon was always a quiet poet . . . Yet if you listen carefully and read between the lines, there's always noise lurking somewhere: bugs, accidents, traumas, storms, and an underlying turbulence that makes Kenyon's work darker and more interesting than most New England nature poets . . . Otherwise, published on the first anniversary of her death from leukemia, includes new poems, sections from her four previous collections, and a poignant afterward by her husband, the poet Donald Hall . . . Perhaps the most interesting and complex character [in this book] is Kenyon's own depression, often personified and omnipresent. 'Having It Out With Melancholy' reads like an argument . . . Yet this is a poet who can also write that 'Happiness is the uncle you never / knew about, who flies a single-engine plane / onto the grassy landing strip, hitchhikes / into town, and inquires at every door / until he finds you asleep midafternoon.' Indeed, Otherwise is not without its transcendent moments of joy."—Susan Shapiro, Salon
Opening with twenty new poems, Otherwise continues with generous selections from the late Jane Kenyon's previous books.
About the Author
was born in 1947. She published four books of poetry and translated the work of Anna Akhmatova. Among the awards she received for her work were a Guggenheim Fellowship and the PEN Voelcker Award. She died of leukemia in 1995.