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The Painted Bed: Poems Hardcover – April 11, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; First Edition edition (April 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0618187898
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618187898
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #895,592 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hall has for decades been an eminent poet and critic; his previous book, Without (1999), was a raw collection of elegies for his late wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, that brought attention to their lives and work. More controlled, more varied and more powerful, this taut follow-up volume reexamines Hall's grief while exploring the life he has made since. The book's first poem, "Kill the Day," stands among the best Hall has ever written. It examines mourning in 16 long-lined stanzas, alternating catalogue with aphorism, understatement with keened lament: "How many times will he die in his own lifetime?" Two groups of terse, short-lined free verse proffer stories and moments from Kenyon's last days and from Hall's first days without her: "You think that their dying is the worst thing that could happen. Then they stay dead." Subsequent brief stanzaic lyrics take both epigraph and method from Thomas Hardy's poems on the loss of his wife: some will please both Hardy's fans and Hall's. But even those fans may skip "Daylilies on the Hill," a lengthy and overly detailed verse history of the by now familiar New Hampshire house that Hall and Kenyon shared. The book's last poems range from raunchy to wise as they explore sex in later age "Sometimes our red fitted sheets maneuvered to embrace us like pythons." The final poem, ironically called "Affirmation," contains a more typical and typically stark prediction: "If a new love carries us past middle age, our wife will die at her strongest and most beautiful." (Apr.)Forecast: The press blitz that accompanied Without won't materialize here, but it won't matter to Hall's (and Kenyon's) many readers. Look for broader reviews centered on the poetry of illness and grief that could include this book, Alan Shapiro's Song & Dance (Forecasts, Dec. 17, 2001), Linda Pastan's The Last Uncle (Forecasts, Jan. 21) and Donald Revell's Arcady (reviewed below).

Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Even as he has suffered from his wife Jane Kenyon's death and the declining powers of age, Hall has continued growing as a poet, and his steady readers may consider this his finest collection. The long, long-lined opening poem, "Kill the Day," considers his grief over Jane from a few years later than the raw, bleeding poems of Without (1998), and reports a bleak existence but limns it with compelling beauty. Bleakness and beauty characterize the reminiscent lyrics that follow, too, joined by a breathtaking bluntness, as in this "Distressed Haiku": "You think that their / dying is the worst / thing that could happen. // Then they stay dead." A second long-lined, long poem, "Daylilies on the Hill 1975-1989," however, celebrates his grandparents' old house, which he restored to be his home, and some humbly momentous events in its history. The love that breaks through in "Daylilies" skittishly informs the bawdy poems that lead to the final "Affirmation" that "it is fitting / and delicious to lose everything." Amen. Ray Olson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 10, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I heard the author interviewed on Fresh Air today and was enthralled by the reading of his poetry. I lost my mom to cancer three years ago and want to buy this collection not only for myself but also for my dad, who has gone through many of the same stages of grief and mourning as the author. Now that my dad is coming out on the other side -- and learning to live fully again, but always with the memories of my mom not far away -- I think he might appreciate this honest voice that explores emotion, loss, and self. If the poems Hall read on Fresh Air are any indication, the rest of this collection will be quite moving and memorable.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Donald A. Newlove on April 26, 2003
Format: Paperback
Heartbreak recollected in sublimity. The long "Daylilies" poem tells of the loss of the poet's family members over two centuries in his New Hampshire farmhouse. Walls, beams, lathe, handmade nails, everything about the house goes into a sense of infinite loss over the centuries and parallels the loss of his wife. We all go into the night, but it's great to go in the hands of a poet like Hall.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas E. Defreitas on April 29, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Hall's verse not only vivifies the one he mourns for, but also awakens and afflicts the reader with a sympathetic alertness; moreover, the stanzas of the poems, both rhymed and un-, represent his best writing in verse since the days of "The One Day." Perhaps such evaluations are an impertinence as we ponder poems born of such grief; nonetheless, Hall deserves praise for his esthetic accomplishment and his intimately human voice. The language does not falter.
If the price of a hardcover book proves prohibitive, one might fly to the nearest bookstore, pluck "The Painted Bed" from the shelves, and sit on a chair or a patch of carpet and receive these words as one might receive the language of a liturgy. The stations of Hall's grief are composed of stately phrases and living words. Few books of poetry can be described with justice as necessary to acquire and to absorb; Hall's collection of elegies is such a book -- vital in the sense of necessary, and in the sense of helping one to live.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 1, 2002
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
At 47 Jane Kenyon, much younger than her husband Donald Hall, should have buried him; but that was not meant to be. In this slim volume of poetry, Hall writes eloquently of his wife's death, his love for her, his grief, despair and eventual acceptance of life without his wife. The poems are best if read straight through. They are highly personal, sometimes almost embarrassingly so. We should thank Mr. Hall for sharing his most intimate thoughts on such a private and painful subject.

Mr. Hall's imagery is beautiful. Listen to the opening lines of "Kill The Day."

"When she died it was as if her car accelerated
off the pier's end and zoomed upward over death water
for a year without gaining or losing altitude. . . "

In the poem "Ardor" lust is described as "grief that has turned over in bed to look the other way." Finally in the concluding poem in the book "Affirmation" Hall describes the indifference of the young to growing old with this wonderful image: "we row for years on the midsummer pond, ignorant and content."

These poems bring, if not comfort, at least the knowldge that we are not alone in our own losses. As in all good art, the particular becomes the universal.
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Format: Paperback
living from day to day, donald hall quotes himself from an earlier book, The Long Day' for a section epigram:

`Work, love, build a house, and die.'

a shakespearean summation of hall's life with his wife, the poet, jane kenyon, expressed after her death. one must appreciate the difficulty overcome to write the poems in The Painted Bed.

`When she died, he died also. For the first year
his immediate grief confused him into feeling alive.
He endured the grief of a two-month love affair.
When women angry and free generously visited
the frenzy of his erotic grief, melancholia
became ecstasy, then sank under successful dirt.'

the above stanzas from the first poem, Kill the Day, tally the tones as prologue of a collection of what, with the exception of the poem `Day Lilies on the Hill' could be considered one long poem. the death of hall's wife, his stages of grief, the subsequent number of women as lovers who arrived later, and an affirmation of `delicious' resignation written in the collection's final poem , `affirmation' :

`To grow is to lose everything.
__________________________________________

Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.'

hall is due immense respect for a work ethic he brings to the life of the poet, a profession without time clock, by going to work even on the worst of days. the work of the poet is not lost.

' "The days you work," said O'Keeffe, "are the best days."
Work without love is idle ...'

poems in `the painted bed' are presented in different forms. hall also draws psychological sustenance from the poets who wrote before him.
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