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Without: Poems

4.32  ·  Rating details ·  1,585 ratings  ·  152 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
Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 14th 1999 by Mariner Books (first published 1998)
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Average rating 4.32  · 
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 ·  1,585 ratings  ·  152 reviews

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Dec 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing
When one person gets cancer, the whole family gets cancer. It's a long, painful ordeal with different endings for the stricken families, but certain cancers demand it, and endings they'll get.

I just read Without straight through and think Donald Hall's poetic response to poet-wife Jane Kenyon's decline under the killing effects of leukemia is one of the preeminent literary responses to cancer.

Whether you want to read a book of during and after poems about terminal cancer is another matter. Espe
Aug 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Mr. Hall tells the story of his wife Jane Kenyon dying of cancer. Heartbreaking shit.
Feb 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: must-own
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
Nov 02, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009
"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
Lynn Jarrett
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book totally caught me by surprise. I read it late one night/early one morning without stopping. It was so raw with emotion, yet so dear to heart. I could feel the pain and grief Hall was feeling. I shed tears on more than one occasion. Unfortunately, I was reading a library book. I had to keep stopping myself from picking up a highlighter to mark passages. If you get the opportunity to read it, this book is definitely worth a couple of hours of your time.
May 23, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
One of the most touching collections of poems I have ever read. Sweet and funny and sad.
Marie Chow
May 08, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, reviewed
A moving elegy in poems by Donald Hall for Jane Kenyon, his beloved wife and fellow poet, who fought valiantly with leukemia. These poems grapple with and then embrace his loss, before and after her passing. What a marriage this must have been, to her last word ("O.K.", about his putting her letters in the box); and her last kiss:
"At eight that night,
her eyes open as they stayed
until she died, brain-stem breathing
started, he bent to kiss
her pale cool lips again, and felt them
one last tim
Oct 07, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I have followed the career of both Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall for decades and enjoyed their thoughtful and often inspiring work very much. I was devastated as any fan when Kenyon died. This book of poetry is a raw and honest portrayal of living, dying, and grief. I am keeping this book to return to when I need it.

What a beautiful tribute to their love and relationship! I highly recommend this. I'm not a huge fan of poetry, but this is so easy to relate to.
Sherry Chandler
Dec 05, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Apr 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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. ...more
Nov 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it liked it
This is the most depressing book I've ever read, and I don't say that lightly. It is painful and raw from start to finish. Donald Hall wrote this volume of poems to chronicle his wife's illness and death, and no matter how sad you think that might be, go ahead and double it, because he doesn't shy away from any aspect of death's reality or the feelings it evokes. I feel like I lost someone myself, now. As much as I respect that kind of emotional honesty and willingness to forge into territory mo ...more
Jul 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Mostly average poetry but with a lot of imagistic highlights.

Not just for the grieving, as I'm tail-ending, love and death generally.

I had thought the titular, rushing hurricane of a poem, in the place immediately after or as Jane's death, was untitled, used to seeing the titles of books at the tops of pages, satisfying my experimental structuralist urge.
Liz Gray
Dec 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
Somehow I missed this collection of Donald Hall’s poems, written in the year after his wife and fellow poet, Jane Kenyon, died. I have been missing a friend who died suddenly and expectedly last summer, feeling his loss as a pain in my solar plexus, and read this collection as a way to think about the world without him in it. Hall writes so perceptively about the moments of grief that assault him, and addresses his poems to Jane in a way that makes perfect sense. As long as he is in the world, s ...more
J & J
Apr 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Quite possibly the saddest, truest poetry book I've ever read and I loved it. ...more
Riley T
Nov 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
This was vivid, poignant and emotional. The poems were beautiful. Excited to read more of his work.
Aug 21, 2018 added it
Devastating, tender and gorgeous, unflinching and flinching.
May 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As would be expected, Without is a heavy affair. It is also honest and sometimes, hard to bear. Hall's pain and grief sustains the 81 pages without veering off into too much sentimentality. It would be difficult to read this book and not feel everything he felt. ...more
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
Mar 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is the best collection of grief poems I have ever read. Donald Hall has always been a highly accessible poet, not esoteric, but down to earth, genuine. His poetry captures love and family and the rural experience better than almost any poet--the only comparison might be to Wendell Berry. These poems concern his wife, Jane Kenyon, a fine poet herself, and her diagnosis and eventual death from cancer. Hall captures his individual experience of struggling with Jane throughout her illness, but ...more
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, grief-loss
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
Jul 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, poetry
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
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommended
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: [] ...more
Aug 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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. ...more
Dec 03, 2007 rated it really liked it
Poems about the early death of his wife, Jane Kenyon. Relentlessly sad, but some poems are real gems.

Amanda Carver
Sep 29, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Far be it from me to knock a book of poems about a man's dead wife. ...more
Hannah Jane
A line from a favorite poem:

"When they courted, Jane's hair was short and straight, easy to care for. Later she grew it long, below her shoulders, and wrote poems from the cave behind it."
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Donald Hall was an American poet, writer, editor and literary critic. 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. Donald Hall published numerous books of poetry. Besides poetry, Donald Hall wrote books on baseball, the sculptor Henry Moore, and the poet Marianne Moore. He was also the author ...more

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