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Without: Poems by Donald Hall
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Without: Poems (1998)

by Donald Hall

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
I have been thinking about this book of painful poetry for months now. The collection is about Donald Hall's wife of many years, the poet Jane Kenyon, suffering from, and finally dying from cancer. The poems start during her illness, through her death, and continue on with Hall's agony as he is left without his other half and soul mate. The pain and loneliness reflect much my own life now. This poetry is extremely intense to read and reread, but it helps me know that I'm not the only one to go through losing someone so close too me, that not only is my heart just broken, it's missing many parts. I am incomplete without Vicky.
Somewhere in the seemingly countless boxes of books I have in a storage unit, is a copy that I read many years ago. When a poet friend of mine mentioned this wonderful book during a conversation about Hall, I knew I couldn't wait any longer, I ordered the book. When I read it the first time, it tore me up with its intensity. This time it was much more personal and searingly brutal. I am off to find a quiet place under a tree where I can read and feel it all over again. In the back of my head, I can hear Vicky talking about what a masochist I am. It was something I never denied. ( )
  jphamilton | Nov 2, 2018 |
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 one can easily feel him or herself in a similar situation. His poems are a model of giving insight into universal human experience through his own particular experience. For a realistic, moving, and powerful portrait of struggling with a loved one's illness and death, I give this book my highest recommendation. ( )
  mpotts | Sep 20, 2018 |
Poems reflecting on the dying of his wife, all but unbearable ( )
  unclebob53703 | Jan 25, 2015 |
95 percent of my reading is science fiction, with a little history and popular science sprinkled in. My wife's the poet in the family. She handed me this book one day, I opened it to the first page, and I didn't stop reading until I had finished it. Very powerful. I suspect the closeness of our relationship had something to do with the book's impact on me, but who knows -- great writing is great writing. I had to get my own copy. ( )
  teeps29 | Jul 2, 2013 |
Stunning and elegeic. ( )
  Lcwilson45 | Sep 17, 2011 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0395957656, Paperback)

Eagle Pond Farm, familiar even to casual readers of poet Donald Hall (author of 13 volumes of poetry spanning over 40 years), constitutes his spiritual and geographic center. He moved there permanently in 1975 after marrying the young and talented poet Jane Kenyon. His long relationship to Eagle Pond Farm and the creative haven the two poets created gives Without a special poignancy. It is where, in 1995, Jane Kenyon died.

The facts are hard but simple. In 1994, Jane Kenyon--who at 46 was beginning to enjoy the growing recognition of her work--was diagnosed with leukemia. Kenyon and Hall opted for the harrowing bone marrow transplant, to be performed in Seattle. It was not successful, and 12 weeks later, she was dead. Hall began drafting Without during the procedure and subsequent treatment, an act almost impossible to imagine--or perhaps for a poet, the only act possible in the face of what for most would be unspeakable. The magnitude of such suffering might indeed explain the collection's flatness of tone, as if grief can be touched only across great distances.

However restrained the pieces, Hall's gaze is fearless. Shifts in voice (he writes both in first and third person) create a tension that pulls the reader forward, as if compelled to consume this moving, raw account in one sitting. The quality of reader attention is more akin to what one gives a story. Narrative elements include a terse account of the bone-marrow transplant and Kenyan's subsequent radiation treatments ("It was as if she capped the Chernobyl pile with her body"), and it's here that the poems become almost unbearable to read.

Without captures the tedium of dying, jolted by surges of rage and "witless" love. Numbly, it lists the flinty details of Kenyon's last days, spent choosing the poems for her last volume, Otherwise: New & Selected Poems. It describes the moment of her dying in a way that makes one wonder if the ultimate experience of intimacy is to watch the beloved die, to be the one to close her eyes. "Back home from the grave," Hall writes toward the end of this volume, "behind my desk I made / a gallery of Janes," but it can be said that every poem presents a facet of his wife while dying, accruing finally to a gallery of love and grief.

There are some distinguishing jolts to our familiar concepts about death as in, for example, the poem showing the couple, with their minister, praying and holding hands. And when they prayed, "grace was evident / but not the comfort of mercy or reprieve / The embodied figure / on the cross still twisted under the sun." By and large, however, it's a volume not remarkable for bold imagery or shocking connections; rather for the expression of raw grief that follows, unwelcome, all of our necessary losses. --Hollis Giammatteo

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:20 -0400)

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