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.
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.