Jane Kenyon (1947 - 1995)

Jane Kenyon (1947 – 1995) was an American poet and translator. Her work is often characterized as simple, spare, and emotionally resonant.

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. While a student at the University of Michigan, Kenyon met the poet Donald Hall; though he was some twenty years her senior, she married him in 1972, and they moved to Eagle Pond Farm, his ancestral home in New Hampshire.

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.

Kenyon was New Hampshire’s poet laureate when she died in April of 1995 from leukemia. When she died, she was working on editing Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, which was released posthumously in 1996. In 1999, Graywolf Press published A Hundred White Daffodils: Essays, Interviews, the Akhmatova Translations, Newspaper Columns, and One Poem, which most reviewers regarded as less stellar than her previous work but worthwhile nonetheless. 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. Though a subtle faith permeates her poems, they are not overtly Christian, though her essays reveal the important role church came to play in her life once she and Hall moved to Eagle Pond Farm.