WITHOUT by Donald Hall


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A long career in letters, spanning some 40-odd years, has led Hall to this intense collection in which he suffers quite publicly the loss of his wife Jane Kenyon, who died from leukemia in her mid-40s. Compulsive in the details of her long illness, her chemotherapy, her operations, and her deathbed, Hall also writes ten or so letters to her after her death, marking the seasons and holidays with memories, and reports on their dog, cat, relatives, and house. ""Her Long Illness,"" which takes up much of the volume, repeatedly remarks on Kenyon's chemo-induced baldness, and chronicles her bouts of nausea. Hall records Jane's bravery, his own anxious solicitude, and the eventual decision to die at home, days of delusions and incontinence over which Hall lingers. Other poems in this mawkish collection witness the deaths of both their mothers, but the best, ""Without,"" breaks from Hall's monotonous proselike verse into an unpunctuated word-hoard that reflects a year of unpunctuated sorrow. However therapeutic, these embarrassingly maudlin poems further testify to a marriage celebrated by Bill Moyers on PBS, but they have negligible value as art.

Pub Date: April 22nd, 1998
Page count: 96pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin