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Reflections of a working writer and reader



Jane Kenyon’s White Daffodils

Jane Kenyon’s A Hundred White Daffodils is a collection of essays, interviews, newspaper columns and one poem. It also contains her translations of the poems of Anna Akhmatova.

The book was published by Graywolf Press in 1999, four years after her death from leukemia. It is prefaced with an introduction by Kenyon’s husband and fellow poet, Donald Hall.

Jane Kenyon

Although the book is worth the cover price for the Akhmatova translations alone, it has much more to offer in terms of insights into Kenyon’s own life and some wonderful examples of prose writing. Listen to this from The Moment of Peonies:

This year the plants exceed every expectation. Suddenly they’ve come into their full adult beauty, not strapping, but stauesque – the beauty of women, as Chekhov says, “with plump shoulders” and with long hair held precariously in place by a few stout pins. They are white, voluminous, and here and there display flecks of raspberry red on the edges of their fleshy, heavily scented petals.
These are not Protestant-work-ethic flowers. They loll about in gorgeousness; they live for art; they believe in excess. They are not quite decent, to tell the truth. Neighbours and strangers slow their cars to gawk.

The photograph is by Donald Hall.

4 Responses to “Jane Kenyon’s White Daffodils”

  1. Rus Bowden says:

    And she goes on, and then later writes:

    I suppose if I had to declare a favorite flower, it would be peonies, and here I find myself in the moments just after their great, abandoned splurge. They seem like the diva in her dressing gown after the opera–still glistening but spent. “Death is the mother of beauty,” the poet Wallace Stevens tells us. Maybe never again will all the elements conspire to make another such marvelous moment of flowers. I’m glad I wasn’t away from home or, as the Buddhists say, asleep.

    I’m glad too.

    I have a copy of her Daffodils. The night I purchased it, I got the other two books signed, one by Donald Hall, his White Aplles and the Taste of Stone, the other Joyce Peseroff’s Simply Lasting: Writers on Jane Kenyon. I got them at The Concord Poetry Center, where, if you click in, you can still see the event headlining, where Hall and Peseroff did “A Tribute to Jane Kenyon.”

    Thanks for posting this up. Donald Hall’s a great guy, by the way.


  2. Divine Calm says:

    Her description is wonderful. Very sensory.

  3. Tim Buchanan says:

    I have just become a great admirer of Jane Kenyon following my reading her section of the book The Language of Life with Bill Moyers. There is a fine quality a sensory awareness in her poems and observations that has brought me joy. I was a wake in the depth of the night listening to the dog at the foot of our bed and remembered
    Sometimes the sound of his breathing
    saves my life – in and out, in
    and out:a pause, a long sigh. . . .

    mindfulness of the passing.

  4. john baker says:

    Yeah, Tim, she’s good. Very good.