Afternoon in the House

Jane Kenyon

It's quiet here. The catssprawl, eachin a favored place.The geranium leans this wayto see if I'm writing about her:head all petals, brownstalks, and those green fans.So you see,I am writing about you.I turn on the radio. Wrong.Let's not have any noisein this room, exceptthe sound of a voice reading a poem.The cats requestThe Meadow Mouse, by Theodore Roethke.The house settles down on its haunchesfor a doze.I know you are with me, plants,and cats—and even so, I'm frightened,sitting in the middle of perfectpossibility.

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Jane Kenyon was born in Ann Arbor and graduated from the University of Michigan. She published four collections of poetry during her lifetime—From Room to Room (Alice James Books, 1978), The Boat of Quiet Hours (Graywolf Press, 1986), Let Evening Come (Graywolf Press, 1990), and Constance (Graywolf Press, 1993)—and a volume of translations, Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova (Eighties Press/Ally Press, 1985). She is the author of a posthumous collection, Otherwise: New & Selected Poems (Graywolf Press, 1996). A Hundred White Daffodils (Graywolf Press, 1999) collects Kenyon’s essays, interviews, newspaper columns, and other work. Before his death, her husband, Donald Hall, selected The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon (Graywolf Press, 2020). Kenyon lived in Wilmot, New Hampshire, until her death in 1995.

Published twenty-five years after her untimely death, The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon presents the essential work of one of America’s most cherished poets―celebrated for her tenacity, spirit, and grace. In their inquisitive explorations and direct language, Jane Kenyon’s poems disclose a quiet certainty in the natural world and a lifelong dialogue with her faith and her questioning of it. As a crucial aspect of these beloved poems of companionship, she confronts her struggle with severe depression on its own stark terms. Selected by Kenyon’s husband, Donald Hall, just before his death in 2018, The Best Poems of Jane Kenyon collects work from across a life and career that will be, as she writes in one poem, “simply lasting.”

“Jane Kenyon had a virtually faultless ear. She was an exquisite master of the art of poetry.”
—Wendell Berry

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