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Otherwise: New & Selected Poems

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4.35 of 5 stars 4.35  ·  rating details  ·  1,315 ratings  ·  67 reviews
Otherwise collects a lifetime's work by one of contemporary poetry's most cherished talents. Opening with twenty new poems and including generous selections from Jane Kenyon's four previous books—From Room to Room, The Boat of Quiet Hours, Let Evening Come, and Constance—this collection was selected and arranged by Kenyon herself—alongside her husband, the esteemed poet Do ...more
Paperback, 230 pages
Published August 1st 1997 by Graywolf Press (first published 1996)
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The Complete Poems by Emily DickinsonLeaves of Grass by Walt WhitmanShakespeare's Sonnets by William ShakespeareThe Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. EliotAriel by Sylvia Plath
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,015)
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Donna
This book is a classic. A poignant and well-crafted book. I often use Kenyon's poems as examples of emotion, understatement, and accessibility. The old "show, don't tell" rule. She is a master at it and pulls the reader smack in the middle of her experience. ...more
Jessie
Kenyon's book of selected poems was my unlikely companion on our flights to and from Pittsburgh over Christmas--unlikely because I usually prefer fiction on planes. But I loved the strange feeling of sinking into her white space and into the hush of her northeastern imagery--the nuthatch spiraling down the tree, the laundry (yes, always), the unused barn with a moon peeking around it, the way the day looks through the eyes of someone struggling with depression and illness and quiet loss.
All the
...more
Dan Simmons
I've never experienced such loud whispers. Here's my favorite from the collection...

HAVING IT OUT WITH MELANCHOLY

1 FROM THE NURSERY

When I was born, you waited
behind a pile of linen in the nursery,
and when we were alone, you lay down
on top of me, pressing
the bile of desolation into every pore.


And from that day on
everything under the sun and moon
made me sad -- even the yellow
wooden beads that slid and spun
along a spindle on my crib.


You taught me to exist without gratitude.
You ruined my man
...more
Beth
May 09, 2013 Beth rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This moving collection of poetry was compiled during the last months of the poet’s life, as she was battling leukemia. It contains selections from her previously published collections of poetry, as well as a number of new poems. The story of its compilation is told in the afterword, written by Jane Kenyon’s husband (former U.S. Poet Laureate Donald Hall). Crying while reading an afterword was a new experience for me.

The poetry itself is beautiful, and very accessible. The themes center around d
...more
Real Supergirl
I only recently discovered Jane Kenyon, but her poetry is somewhat haunting in its description of depression and everyday life.

At the same time, she will never be one of my very favorite poets because overall, her poems are hit or miss. But the title poem is really amazing, as are a couple others in this collection, and the ones that are "hits" are really, really good.
Elizabeth
I'd like to buy a copy of this collection. Jane Kenyon's work, as her husband describes, is masterful in presenting "the art of the luminous particular." It took me through the summer to read because of practical demands always vying for time, but to its credit when I picked it up, I often lingered on a poem instead of turning the page. The language is unassuming but potent and evocative, surprising one with transcendence found among common objects and everyday occurrences. I feel a strange atta ...more
Tommy Williford
I love Jane. Days seem better when I know I can pick up her work
Cheryl
The poet began this collection as she was sick with leukemia, and then dying at home, and with the help of her husband, the poet Donald Hall. I find it so interesting that most are not new poems, about her illness and death, which is tragic, because it seems like we could have learned desperately needed tools from her, about dying. She writes a lot about a parent’s death, and that resonates with me since it has been 2 weeks since my mother died. I didn’t know these poems would be that meaningful ...more
Mia Tryst
Kenyon is one of this century's best poets and here is the book to prove it. Some of the poems were a little too light for me, but otherwise, a very well put together collection. Sample poem from Otherwise:

Happiness

There's just no accounting for happiness,
or the way it turns up like a prodigal
who comes back to the dust at your feet
having squandered a fortune far away.

And how can you not forgive?
You make a feast in honor of what
was lost, and take from its place the finest
garment, which you sav
...more
Danielle
Kenyon writes about domestic life and depression with the same poignancy, the same swift, sharp language. Her tone is both fragile and defiant; her subject matter often bursts with life and quietly mourns it. Here, of course, one must mention the poems “Otherwise,” “After an Illness, Walking the Dog,” and “Full Moon in Winter.” Kenyon also writes of the vast canyons of space between lovers, the kind that can seem so full and, then, so empty— poems like “Chrysanthemums,” “September Garden Party,” ...more
Florence
I have been trying to define my own preferences for poety by reading many different poets. This volume by Jane Kenyon relies on mostly everyday experiences to define a universal feeling. I especially connected with her poems about depression, which I have personally suffered. I found many other poems which transformed seemingly ordinary observations into something special.

For example;: "I study the cat's face and find a trace of white around each eye, as if he made himself up today for a part in
...more
Lisa Cole
I have spent the last few days with Jane Kenyon's poems. Here are some thoughts: Though she seemed attached to ellipses like Emily Dickinson was attached to dashes, her poetry strikes a chord in me that few poets have found, especially in poems like "Having It Out With Melancholy." I read these poems, and I feel as though I am looking intimately at my own mind. This feeling of being so weighted down with sadness and dread but still wanting so intensely to see life's beauty, to see with clarity t ...more
Steve
This is a great selection of poems. Gettysburg: July 1, 1863 is my favorite. Depression, Eating the Cookies, February: Thinking of Flowers, Happiness, Let Evening Come, Otherwise and Rain in January were all good.
Ami
Apr 12, 2013 Ami rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
I appreciated learning about Jane Kenyon's life and reading through a large representation of her work, but I just couldn't get into the majority of her poems. Which was weird, because I saw a lot of my personal style reflected here, but we both have a problem with creating universal poetry, poetry that speaks to an audience larger than ourselves. Too many personal references, I think is the problem, although I'm not entirely sure.

The poem that enticed me to seek out the rest of her work was "L
...more
Rae
What do Jane Kenyon's poems insist about poetry? I think after spending the last month reading and re-reading this collection, my best answer is: everything.
Eric Black
I warmed to this collection slowly. Jane Kenyon is not my favorite poet, but she certainly has a compelling voice for the feel of death and melancholy.
Christina
The outward simplicity and honesty of Kenyon's poems have always touched me. Her observations about her life, her work, and the quiet beauty of the rural world around her have always seemed so wise and almost otherworldly to me. Knowing that she was struggling to come to terms with her own mortality as she wrote many of the poems in this final collection made reading them all the more poignant, and her husband Donald Hall's tribute to her in the afterword is both a testimony of his love for her ...more
Matt Morris
See my review of this & other books at http://miscmss.blogspot.com/2014/04/t...
Tracy O
Someone told me that the first half of your life is about addition (of loves, responsibility, things, etc) and the second half is about subtraction - paring down because you want to do that and losing people and all the things you strove to acquire. I think of this as my subtraction poetry book. The poems are accessible and graceful - and, I think they would resonate for anyone.

I love these lines from April Chores:

Like a mad red brain
The involute rhubarb leaf
Thinks it's way up
Through loam.


If yo
...more
Kendall
Collection of Kenyon's poems- including the entire collection titled Let Evening Come. Some very nice stuff. Her descriptions of New Hampshire especially speak to me. She's caught the sights- sounds- smells and feel of living in rural New Hampshire. Still- much of her poetry has an underlying sense of despair and darkness. If I didn't know she suffered from depression- I'd probably have figured it out from her poems (even without the poems where she talks specifically about anti-depressant medic ...more
LemontreeLime
This was amazing. Worth savoring. So many little ways she describes things I could recognize in my own experiences, and she could turn something small and inconsequential, something everyday into something profound beautiful and so worth witnessing. Even a fly, or a bird, or a turn in the weather can be shot through with meaning. Lovely. Read slowly.
Marla
Peonies at Dusk

White peonies blooming along the porch
send out light
while the rest of the yard grows dim.

Outrageous flowers as big as human
heads! They're staggered
by their own luxuriance: I had
to prop them up with stakes and twine.

The moist air intensifies their scent,
and the moon moves around the barn
to find our what it's coming from.

In the darkening June evening
I draw a blossom near, and bending close
search it as a woman searches
a loved one's face.

Jamie Dougherty
Favorites, in chronological order:
From Room to Room
Here
The Needle
My Mother
Ironing Grandmother's Tablecloth
Full Moon in Winter
Year Day
Now That We Live
At the Town Dump
Drink, Eat, Sleep
Summer 1890: Near the Gulf
The Bat
Song
Things
In the Grove: The Poet at Ten
Taking Down the Tree
The Blue Bowl
The Letter
We Let the Boat Drift
Heavy Summer Rain
After An Illness, Walking the Dog
Looking at Stars
The Stroller
Biscuit
In Memory of Jack
The Way Things Are in Franklin
Deirdre Keating
A library check-out for N'l Poetry Month. I've had this title on my Amazon wishlist for a while, forgetting now where I picked up the title (perhaps Kenison's blog?). I enjoyed these poems, especially the ones depicting depression in a way I had never heard before---as well as the later ones on loving someone whose health is on the line. Hall's afterword is compelling.
Patricia
This is a book for many rereadings. I think I'll just add another few lines to what other reviewers have already contributed.
These are from "Wood Thrush":

I wake at four,
waiting greedily for the first
notes of the wood thrush. Easeful air
presses through the screen
with the wild, complex song
of the bird, and I am overcome

by ordinary contentment.
Drabekate
I'm more and more moved by the images in neighborhoods I see on my walks, the way I learned to observe the seasons and movements of nature when I grew up. That alone isn't enough for me, but it is a lot and Jane Kenyon's work looks at the world a little the way I do and would like to do more of. I learn so much from her gentle, firm seeing.
Tara
Kenyon's poetry paints for me visual pictures, she takes me into common moments either of her experience or back into fond memories of my own. I had not read Kenyon before. I am finding Kenyon a beautiful writer. Perfect to sit with her and a cup of tea. Someone I will visit again and again.
Meredith
this is such a fine body of work: delicately handled, and yet strong as bone. i don't know that i've read better poetry capturing the wide range of experience and feeling of domestic life--simply put, this book contains a whole life between its covers. you will read this one to the end.
Elisabeth
Nov 06, 2007 Elisabeth rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who loves words
My brother Stephen recommended this poet since I like Billy Collin's poetry. This is a little darker than Collins at times, but still lyrical and beautiful. I'm enjoying it very much, and am amazed at her ability to form images through her use of common words in uncommon combinations.
Annie
Apr 12, 2008 Annie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: poetry lovers
Recommended to Annie by: Kelly Hollenbeak
I haven't read a book of poetry since college. I didn't devour it like I did back then, but I did enjoy it and it made me want to start writing poetry again.

Before reading, it helps to know a little about her life, her struggle with cancer, her husband's struggle with cancer, etc.
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  • Without: Poems
  • Given Sugar, Given Salt
  • Delights and Shadows
  • Book of My Nights
  • Fuel
  • The Gold Cell (Knopf Poetry Series)
  • The Country Between Us
  • A New Selected Poems
  • The Collected Poems
  • The Good Thief
  • What We Carry
  • Thrall
  • Selected Poems
  • Atlantis
  • Even in Quiet Places
  • This Time: New and Selected Poems
  • Selected Poems
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Jane Kenyon was an American poet and translator. Her work is often characterized as simple, spare, and emotionally resonant.
More about Jane Kenyon...
Collected Poems Let Evening Come Constance A Hundred White Daffodils The Boat of Quiet Hours: Poems

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“Otherwise

I got out of bed
on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

At noon I lay down
with my mate. It might
have been otherwise.
We ate dinner together
at a table with silver
candlesticks. It might
have been otherwise.
I slept in a bed
in a room with paintings
on the walls, and
planned another day
just like this day.
But one day, I know,
it will be otherwise.”
8 likes
“Here

You always belonged here.
You were theirs, certain as a rock.
I’m the one who worries
if I fit in with the furniture
and the landscape.

But I “follow too much
the devices and desires of my own heart.”

Already the curves in the road
are familiar to me, and the mountain
in all kinds of light,
treating all people the same.
and when I come over the hill,
I see the house, with its generous
and firm proportions, smoke
rising gaily from the chimney.

I feel my life start up again,
like a cutting when it grows
the first pale and tentative
root hair in a glass of water.”
7 likes
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