A HUNDRED WHITE DAFFODILS by Jane Kenyon

A HUNDRED WHITE DAFFODILS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

This somewhat choppy but affecting collection of translations, essays, interviews, and one new poem by Kenyon is indispensable reading for admirers of her work. Her husband, poet Donald Hall, has assembled both unpublished and previously published works by and interviews with the poet. Kenyon (Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, not reviewed, etc.) died of leukemia in 1995. The mÇlange of poems, articles, notes, and interviews succeeds in conveying resonant themes in Kenyon’s life: gardening, Christianity, her home in New Hampshire, her marriage, illness. The collection opens with “Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova.” These breathtaking translations of the Russian poet are finely wrought with Kenyon’s devotion to image and respect for Akhmatova’s style and emotional intent. In the middle sections—her memoirs of religion in childhood and columns from her local newspaper—Kenyon is at her best describing elements of her garden. Her peonies are “white, voluminous, and here and there display flecks of raspberry red on the edges of their fleshy, heavily scented petals.” While her newspaper columns are often charming, and the language is precise and evocative, Kenyon too often falls into glib summation or pithy neighborly advice: “So remember, when you urge your children to hurry lest they miss the bus, you urge them toward a complicated future, much of which is subject to random luck.” Kenyon’s dialogue with consummate interviewer Bill Moyers more adequately delves into her life as a public and private woman. Her reflections on her marriage, her craft, her struggle with depression, and her love for the natural world are juxtaposed with her poems, offering a powerful portrait of the interplay between life and art. The final, previously unpublished poem, “Woman Why Are You Weeping,” a meditation on how a trip to India challenged her Christian faith, makes a haunting, beautiful endnote. Though at times uneven and repetitive, this posthumous collection offers a rich and varied look into the working life of a well-loved American poet.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-55597-291-8
Page count: 242pp
Publisher: Graywolf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1st, 1999




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