A talented poet and translator, Jane Kenyon served as the poet laureate of New Hampshire for a brief time. Her poetry is often sparse and simple in an accessible but not trite manner, with many references to nature and rural life. Her later works address her struggles with depression and cancer. These later poems demonstrate her intense patience and inner peace while facing physical opposition.
Photo: Jane Kenyon, taken by Donald Hall, Poets.org
Kenyon, a native of Michigan, attended the University of Michigan and graduated with her master's in 1972. Upon graduation, she married Donald Hall, a poet and professor at the university, and the two moved to Eagle Pond Farm in New Hampshire. The farm had belonged to Hall's family for generations.
Throughout her life, Kenyon published four volumes of poetry: From Room to Room (1978), The Boat of Quiet Hours (1986), Let Evening Come (1990), and Constance (1993). She also translated the work of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova. She felt that translation was a worthy and necessary endeavor for any poet to undertake.
At the time of her death at the age of 47 from leukemia, Kenyon had just begun her four-year term as the poet laureate of New Hampshire. She was also in the process of editing Otherwise: New and Selected Poems, which was published posthumously in 1996. In 2005, her collected poems were published.
Kenyon's poems have been set most notably by Ned Rorem and William Bolcom.
The world premiere recording of "Gettysburg: July 1, 1863," provided in the audio playlist to the right, is made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. "Gettysburg: July 1, 1863" is a song by William Bolcom setting the poetry of Jane Kenyon. The performers are Nathan Wyatt, baritone, and Lucas Wong, piano, and the performance took place at SongFest 2012 at The Colburn School. To listen, please click on the track name itself.
The audio recording of "Let Evening Come," provided in the audio playlist to the right, is also made possible through a collaboration between the Hampsong Foundation and SongFest. The performers are Laura Strickling, soprano, Laura Pearson, viola, and Liza Stepanova, piano, and the performance took place at SongFest 2012 at The Colburn School. To listen, please click on the track name itself.