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Otherwise: New & Selected Poems Paperback – August 1, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 230 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press; Reprint edition (August 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555972667
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555972660
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 5.9 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.5 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #691,731 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

This collection stands as something of a tribute to Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995 at the age of 48. Otherwise contains 20 new poems plus selected works from her four previous collections. The situations from which her lively writing arise often came from her daily life in and around the New Hampshire farm where she lived with her husband. The simple settings provides fertile ground for her richness of language. "As late as yesterday ice preoccupied the pond--dark, half-melted, waterlogged. Then it sank in the night, one piece, taking winter with it. And afterward everything seems simple and good." Beautiful, gracious poetry. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Kenyon's poetry is honest and earnest, rich in imagery yet free of clutter. Always technically proficient, her early poems were not always memorable, but her questioning of the value of life has been consistent: "And I knew then/ that I would have to live, and go on/ living: what a sorrow it was...." ("Evening Sun," from her second collection, The Boat of Quiet Hours, 1986). Coming of age at a time when psychiatry often was a useful poet's appliance, Kenyon works her way through superficial gloom to expose a widely familiar sadness. Sorrow begins with childhood, the 10-year-old experiencing a joy "so violent/ it was hard to distinguish from pain." Kenyon died of leukemia in April 1995 at age 47. The poems in this volume, being published on the first anniversary of her death, were selected by the poet; her husband, poet Donald Hall, offers an afterword. New poems, gathered in the first section, focus with unsentimental, entirely credible directness on her pending death. In "Eating the Cookies," the poet cleans a closet while nibbling on cookies sent by a cousin: "...the largest cookie,/ which I had saved for last, lay/ solitary in the tin with a nimbus/ of crumbs around it. There would be no more/ parcels from Portland. I took it up/ and sniffed it, and before eating it,/ pressed it against my forehead, because/ it seemed like the next thing to do." This collection is generous, cohesive and moving.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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See all 9 customer reviews
Jane Kenyon's OTHERWISE is perhaps the best collection of American poetry in the past decade.
Deborah Heeres
Jane Kenyon's poetry describes some of the most simple, daily activities in a way that brings out their hidden beauty and grace.
Marissa Seko
The majority of her poems are very readable, written in free verse without many complex structures.
E. Strickenburg

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on December 19, 2003
Format: Paperback
It was this anthology of poetry that transformed my mother from a woman who dislikes poetry to a woman who reads it every day. I read her one poem and got her hooked. Jane Kenyen speaks directly to her reader, using simple images and plain language, capturing experiences that often feel familiar and sometimes reminding us of their meaning and significance. This is not poetry that could be shouted at a poetry slam or puzzled over by scholars looking for allusions to Sanskrit texts. This is poetry about our lives, about burying the cat, ironing a tablecloth, saying goodbye to guests, winter weather, faith, sadness, and love. I love poetry, but sometimes it feels daunting and inaccessible. Jane Kenyon writes like I am her guest, sitting at her kitchen table, and she has a moment to share.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 4, 1996
Format: Hardcover
Kenyon offers no elaborate rhyme schemes or obscure literary allusions,
just simple, graceful observations - of pain, love, disappointment,
affirmation. Magical, haunting, and precise, Kenyon stands alone.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Deborah Heeres on November 13, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jane Kenyon's OTHERWISE is perhaps the best collection of American poetry in the past decade. With her accessible and illuminating poems, Ms. Kenyon captures the essence of life in all its ordinariness and extraordinariness. "Let Evening Come," for example, is a nearly perfect gem -- thoughtful, concise, movingly eloquent. Throughout this collection, the poet demonstrates a remarkable clarity of vision; her diction and meter are gorgeous, her wit and insight profound yet never burdensome. Whether recalling a scene from her childhood, an hour in winter, a cancer treatment, a death in the family, or a walk with the dog, Ms. Kenyon inspires, illuminates, and entertains.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Marissa Seko on March 10, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I absolutely love this book. Jane Kenyon's poetry describes some of the most simple, daily activities in a way that brings out their hidden beauty and grace. You can sense the careful observation and truthfullness of what she describes, yet as you read you can interpret the symbolism behind certain passages and the realizations there aswell. I feel so deeply connected with this book. Her poetry speaks the words we cannot say. You won't regret buying this book.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. Strickenburg on October 26, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This moving collection of poetry was compiled during the last months of the Jane Kenyon'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 the poet'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 daily life. Sometimes it's the poignancy of the little things: the healing found by seeing sunlight on a warm rock, the solidarity with the past caused by finding an old thimble on the floor, the quiet joy of watching children at play. Other times it's the more difficult things: the visit to an elderly relative in a nursing home, the oppressive reality of a difficult prognosis, the rawness of a funeral. Her poems aren't often happy-go-lucky, but they're always tender and real.

Ms. Kenyon writes with spare simplicity and startling imagery. The majority of her poems are very readable, written in free verse without many complex structures. Here's a taste of her style:

The Suitor

We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping.
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder;
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish.
Suddenly I understand that I am happy.
For months this feeling
has been coming closer, stopping
for short visits, like a timid suitor.
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