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Without: Poems

4.31 of 5 stars 4.31  ·  rating details  ·  1,016 ratings  ·  91 reviews
You might expect the fact of dying--the dying of a beloved wife and fellow poet--to make for a bleak and lonely tale. But Donald Hall's poignant and courageous poetry, facing that dread fact, involves us all: the magnificent, humorous, and gifted woman, Jane Kenyon, who suffered and died; the doctors and nurses who tried but failed to save her; the neighbors, friends, and ...more
Hardcover, 96 pages
Published April 7th 1998 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1998)
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This was a library group read and I have to admit when I was first handed it, my teeth were set. "Poetry, really?" inside I said, with a deep groan! But let me say I fell in love with this "little" book and now it is in my Amazon cart to own.
I have no words for this book, so let me just quote two poems that effected me deeply, in no way the deepest but to me a couple of the most tender.

"This morning Gussie
woke me up. I let him out, fed Ada,
took Gus back in again,
and fed him. Then I went to the
"The hour/we lived in, two decades/by the pond, has transformed/into a single unstoppable day,/gray in the dwelling-place/of absence."

"If someone had told us then/you would die in nineteen years,/would it have sounded/like almost enough time?"

"I loved to turn up in your poems/I imagined those you'd make/after I died; I regretted/I wouldn't be able to read them."

A book of poems filled with adoring devotion for his wife. Honest, humble and profoundly pained observations of the process of losing an
Until now, I was not a huge Donald Hall fan, but I liked him okay. I found “Unpacking the boxes” almost boring, but he is a wordsmith, so it was worth reading.

This book of poetry is about Jane, Mr. Hall’s wife, who died of leukemia about twenty years into their marriage, in her forties.

I found it in hard copy at a bookstore in Sonoma County, and felt like I won a scratch ticket. I was on vacation and dropping a ton of dough that week, so eight bucks for a slim hard cover did not seem steep.

Marie Chow
Cut to the Chase:
I don’t read much poetry… but what poetry I do read tends to be by Donald Hall and a handful of others. This is without a doubt my favorite single work by Hall, though it is lean, sparse, and an emotional roller coaster. Scratch that, roller coasters have ups and downs, this is a more of an emotional spiral into all of the edges and dimensions of love, death, and grief at its rawest. It is one of my favorite all time collections.

Greater Detail:
Normally, this is where I would cut
I read this first for an Intermediate Poetry class as an undergrad accompanied by Jane Kenyon's Otherwise. I don't think I could quite appreciate it as I do now, on the other side of loss. I am immersing myself in these volumes of poetry now that I have my own collection of loss-poetry as I try to figure out how my own manuscript will fall into place.
Sherry Chandler
Dec 05, 2007 Sherry Chandler rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: the whole world
Shelves: thepoets
Without is an affecting book, one of the few books of poetry that I have read through at a sitting. It is not pleasant reading, I don’t know whether it is always poetry, but it is always an honest look into the heart of grief, and as such a comfort in a way to those of us who see our own grief coming.
I don't usually like reading an entire book of poetry at one sitting--but this was a rare exception. It's a sad, lovely story about Hall's wife, (Jane Kenyon, another poet) how he loved her and how she died.
Have I read this at least twenty times? Yes. Am I still a weeping mess after every read? Yes. Does Donald Hall know what he's doing? Yes.
Donald Hall's Without, intimately describes the loss of his wife, Jane Kenyon, while perpetually straddling the line of sentimentality. At times, I felt isolated from moments and details which felt too specific to Hall and Kenyon. I say this reluctantly, as specific and concrete details are what make this book a simultaneous joy and devastation to read. Without paces itself through Hall's close attention to poem length and varying momentum and sections. While Hall's collection could be read in a ...more
Poems about the early death of his wife, Jane Kenyon. Relentlessly sad, but some poems are real gems.

One of the most touching collections of poems I have ever read. Sweet and funny and sad.
Tender and beautifully written.

Should be read cover to cover, in order.
Amanda Carver
Far be it from me to knock a book of poems about a man's dead wife.
I bought this book after attending a seminar with Donald Hall a number of years ago. Like a lot of poetry books I buy, it sat on the shelf until the right time came to read it. This collection of poems is Hall's poetic response to the loss of his Jane Kenyon and as such addresses the last year of her life and the first year following her death. It is the poetry of grief. The ache of loss bellows from these poems, making it a powerful read.

As a writer, I also found something else that Hall spo
Robert Beveridge
Donald Hall, Without (Houghton Mifflin, 1998)

Donald Hall is one of America's most accomplished men of letters, and never has he been more so than in Without. Published on the third anniversary of the death of his wife, the late poet Jane Kenyon, Without is split into two sections. The first details the months leading up to her death, and as expected, the poems in this section are fraught, fast-moving, tense, full of alternating hope and fear, as well as the quotidian agony of chemotherapy and im
Donald Hall’s book of poetry Without: Poems is about a dying wife and a dying poet. These poems were very interesting because it took the form of a book, but yet remained a collection of poetry, but the whole piece told a story. The beginning of the collection of poetry was a poem entitled “Her long illness” in the poem Donald Hall painted a picture of a dedicated husband who was beside his dying wife that had been stricken with cancer. There was a part that stood out to me which was “he worked; ...more
Sometimes, when reading poetry, it takes a long time to get through, not necessarily because the poems are bad, or boring, but just because I just can't relate to them. I have never had that problem with Donald Hall's poetry, especially those that deal with the death of his wife Jane Kenyon from leukemia. Sadly, as cancer continues to eat away at the lives of people I love, I seem to relate more and more to Hall, one of my favorite contemporary American poets.

Without is the collection written a
Donald Hall was married to the poet Jane Kenyon, and this book of poems covers the last year of her life (she died of Leukemia) and the first year after her death. I struggled with what to rate this book (3 and 1/2 stars would feel more appropriate) because parts of it were frustrating, while others were incredibly touching and beautiful. Overall, Hall manages to walk that fine line of writing personal poems without making them feel irrelevant to an outside reader; given his devastation at the l ...more
This is the most powerful, poignant, beautifully written book of poetry I have ever read. These poems are written to and for Donald Hall's wife, poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995. Liz Rosenberg of the Boston Globe said my feelings best: "It is a remarkably beautiful and generous book, beautiful in all its terrible specifics of the daily ordeal of death, and generous to the memory of the force of life his wife possessed. The result, I think, is his strongest book yet...a work of art, love, and g ...more
Poignant and relate-able without being overdramatic or self-centered. This was a beautiful collection, and I would highly recommend it to anyone currently going through the loss of a loved one.
My friend Hartman had this book and suggested I take a look at it one night when we were over there. I am very interested in studying grief and loss so he knew I would enjoy it.

I started reading the first poem and couldn't stop. I read the whole book while we all were sitting there conversing.

It is moving, heartfelt, passionate, sad and truly a powerful book of love and friendship. I was completely taken with his words and his writing style is so beautiful and easy to read for an amateur reade
When I first read this years ago, it devastated me. I cried and cried and cried, and my poetry teacher said, "Well yes, it's sad, but is it good poetry?" which I thought was unusually cruel and heartless, even for him. But upon rereading, I'm wondering if there wasn't some truth to his statement. This book will tear out your heart, but there are many places where we leave the world of poetry entirely and enter the world of newspaper writing. Which is a fine place to be, but maybe not so much in ...more
While I don't pretend to be an expert on poetry, I can honestly say that this is the first collection of poetry that actually had a visceral emotional effect on me. I could almost feel the pain this person was going through as he watched his wife die slowly of leukemia. It was very moving.

My favorites were "Last Days," and "Midsummer Letter." A part that really stood out to me (from Last Days): "When she no longer spoke,/they lay alone together, touching,/and she fixed on him/her beautiful enor
So beautiful. Destroyed me.
this book is HEARTBREAKING. he wrote all the poems during his wife's struggle with cancer, and they are all really delicate and can feel what he's feeling, almost, becuase he picks such great words and uses great line breaks and stuff. the one of page 3 (i think...maybe 13...they don;t have names) is intense...about him wanting to do something, but not knowing what to do. i actually was able to hear his read drom this collection while i was in college, and it was CRAZY. like meetin ...more
This was very hard on an emotional level. I see that Hall managed to use form (pentameter or 4-3 rhythm)to resist devastation, but still. I would have avoided this, to be honest, but through a sort of accident, came across it anyway, because I was looking for a copy of a different collection of his. That's very much the way things work, though.
This IS my very favorite book of poetry! Absolutely beautiful lamentations for the wife & best friend the poet lost. This is how a man grieves, especially when so many men are of few words. While reading this, put yourself in the shoes of a grieving husband, going on with the routines of life though he is missing his very reason to breathe. It's a love story in brief glimpses, and it will make you want to savor every last second with your loved ones.
After the first line of the first poem, I could not put this collection down. Hall infuses this book with nuanced truths about the grieving process, harrowing in their accuracy and intimacy. Anyone who has suffered a great loss and then tried to come to terms with writing about it will understand what a remarkable achievement this book represents. More here: []
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  • Otherwise: New & Selected Poems
  • The Wellspring
  • My Alexandria
  • Rose
  • What Work Is: Poems
  • Human Wishes
  • The Country Between Us
  • Given Sugar, Given Salt
  • Donkey Gospel
  • What the Living Do: Poems
  • Delights & Shadows
  • In the Next Galaxy
  • What We Carry
  • Refusing Heaven
  • Late Wife
  • Averno
  • Native Guard
  • Dancing in Odessa
Donald Hall was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928. He began writing as an adolescent and attended the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference at the age of sixteen—the same year he had his first work published. He earned a B.A. from Harvard in 1951 and a B. Litt. from Oxford in 1953.

Donald Hall has published numerous books of poetry, most recently White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1
More about Donald Hall...
Ox-Cart Man The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems, 1946-2006 The Painted Bed: Poems Life Work

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