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.
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.
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.
Like primitives we buried the cat with his bowl. Bare-handed we scraped sand and gravel back into the hole. They fell with a hiss and thud on his side, on his long red fur, the white feathers between his toes, and his long, not to say aquiline, nose.