May 23, 1947|
Ann Arbor, Michigan
|Died||April 22, 1995
Wilmot, New Hampshire
|Alma mater||University of Michigan|
|Spouse||Donald Hall (m. 1972)|
Jane Kenyon (May 23, 1947 – April 22, 1995) was an American poet and translator. Her work is often characterized as simple, spare, and emotionally resonant. Kenyon was the second wife of poet, editor, and critic Donald Hall who made her the subject of many of his poems.
Kenyon was born in 1947 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in the Midwest. She earned a B.A. from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an M.A. in 1972. She won a Hopwood Award at Michigan. Also, while a student at the University of Michigan, Kenyon met the poet Donald Hall; though he was some nineteen years her senior, she married him in 1972, and they moved to Eagle Pond Farm, his ancestral home in Wilmot, New Hampshire. Kenyon was New Hampshire's poet laureate when she died Saturday April 22, 1995 from leukemia.
Four collections of Kenyon's poems were published during her lifetime: Constance (1993), Let Evening Come (1990), The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986), and From Room to Room (1978). She spent some years translating the poems of Anna Akhmatova from Russian into English (published as Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova, 1985), and she championed translation as an important art at which every poet should try her hand. When she died, she was working on editing Otherwise: New and Selected Poems. In 2004, Ausable Press published Letters to Jane, a compilation of letters written by the poet Hayden Carruth to Kenyon in the year between her diagnosis and her death.
Kenyon's poems are filled with rural images: light streaming through a hayloft, shorn winter fields. She wrote frequently about wrestling with depression, which plagued her throughout her adult life. Kenyon's poem "Having it out with Melancholy" describes this struggle and the brief moments of happiness she felt when taking an MAOI, Nardil. The essays collected in A Hundred White Daffodils reveal the important role church came to play in her life once she and Hall moved to Eagle Pond Farm. However, two visits to India in the early 1990s led to a crisis of faith, as Hall (in introductions to her books and in his own memoirs), Alice Mattison, and her biographer John Timmerman have described.
Her poem "Let Evening Come" was featured in the film In Her Shoes, in a scene where the character played by Cameron Diaz reads the poem (as well as "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop) to a blind nursing home resident. "Having it out with Melancholy" has been read by Amanda Palmer on Brain Pickings.
Kenyon was also a contributor to Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art.
- Jane Kenyon: Collected Poems (Graywolf Press, 2005)
- A Hundred White Daffodils (Graywolf Press, 1999)
- Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1996)
- Constance (Graywolf Press, 1993)
- Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990)
- The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press, 1986)
- From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978)
- Hornback, Bert G. (1 September 2000). Bright Unequivocal Eye": Poems, Papers and Remembrances from the First Jane Kenyon Conference. Peter Lang. pp. 11–26. ISBN 978-0820445854.
- Mattison, Alice (2000). "Let It Grow in the Dark Like a Mushroom: Writing with Jane Kenyon". Michigan Quarterly Review. University of Michigan. 39: 121–37. ISSN 0026-2420.
- Timmerman, John H. (September 2002). Jane Kenyon: A Literary Life. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. ISBN 978-0802839435.