Jane Kenyon left us far too soon. She died in 1995 at the age of 47. But in such a short life, she produced some amazing poems. She had an uncanny eye for detail and an almost supernatural ability to capture a scene. Upon first read her poems very accessible However, repeated readings reveal hidden depth and complexities and therein lies the pleasure of reading Jane Kenyon. Read a Kenyon poem once and you find pleasure. Reread it a few times and you're in awe. I'm also drawn to the subtle spirituality of much of her work and also (not in a morbid way) to the several poems she wrote about death and dying. She seems so at peace in her writing.
Here is an example, "Let Evening Come:"
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
Read the rest at the Writer's Almanac. As I've professed before, the use of repetition is a poetry "move" I really enjoy. She uses it splendidly here, almost melodically in a way that lulls you to sleep, and also in several of her other poems.
I also like "Happiness" (who doesn't?):
There’s just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.
And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you saved for an occasion
you could not imagine, and you weep night and day
to know that you were not abandoned,
that happiness saved its most extreme form
for you alone.
Finish reading here and you'll notice that wonderful repetition move come back.
I believe you'll see what I'm talking about when I say "eye for detail" and "hidden complexities" if you're able to take a moment to read these:
- The sprawling "Having it Out With Melancholy"
- The thought-provoking "Notes from the Other Side"
- The subtle "The Blue Bowl"
- The succinctly perfect "What Came to Me"
- The perfect litany of "Briefly it Enters, Briefly it Speaks"
- The vivid and emotional "Heavy Summer Rain"
Hopefully you'll find Jane Kenyon deserving of her #2 ranking. And check back tomorrow for the #1 poet in our countdown!