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Otherwise -- Jane Kenyon

Guest poem submitted by Mike Monje:
(Poem #474) 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.
-- Jane Kenyon
from Constance (1993).

Hey, I've been out of school for too many years to speak intelligently about
poetry.  But here goes...

I suggested Jane Kenyon's poem because it's  accessible, self contained, and
probably her most famous.  You can sit with one of her poems for fifteen or
twenty minutes and then leave satisfied.  I like to like a poem's  speaker, and
I always like Kenyon's.  She's a neighbor I'd like to invite to my BBQ. Also,
read this aloud -- she's a musician.



Jane Kenyon was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1947. She published four
collections of poetry including Otherwise (Greywolf), Book of Quiet (Greywolf),
Constance (Greywolf), Let Evening Come (Greywolf), and From Room to Room
Alicejames Books). Her translations of the poems of Anna Akhmatova resulted in
Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatava (Ally Press). She was awarded a Guugenheim
Fellowship, the PEN Voelcker Award, and was featured with her husband Donald
Hall in the Emmy Award-winning Bill Moyers special, "A Life Together." She died
in April 1995 of leukemia.

        -- [broken link]

[Minstrels Links]

Anna Akhmatova, an excerpt from the 'Requiem' sequence: poem #231

31 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

nisha george said...

I liked it too.
I like poems that manage to say it well even while keeping it concise.
nisha george

Todd said...

I liked this poem -- I responded to it. I appreciated its down-to-earth quality.
The poet itemizes several tangible things in her life that she values and finds
meaning in (e.g., "two strong legs"). She doesn't mention abstract things nor does
she over-rationalize her appreciation. Instead the language is deliberately simple,
direct, clear. Perspective comes in the recurrent phrase, "It might have been
otherwise." The word "otherwise," nearly the only word in the poem made up of more
than one or two syllables, contrasts with the concrete vocabulary found in the other

I liked the spiritual awareness of the poem. It is like a prayer of thanksgiving.
The poet is determined not to take anything in her life for granted but instead to
pay attention to and acknowledge everything. Her outlook is completely positive.
These are the good things in her life (and the good things in most people's lives):
health, sustenance, nature, work, love, companionship, comfort, rest. This surely
says it all. She knows that life is short and that suffering is universal. This
knowledge is the context out of which her words are formed.

I liked the patterning of the poem, too. With the repetition of "it might have been
otherwise," she seems to follow a kind of rhetorical pattern, which has a classical
feel to it.

I am happy to make this poet's acquaintance!


MAZE8 said...

this poem stuck to me... I had to look it up again..... now I have a copy
of it. her rest in peace is her work continuing.

viagra online said...

I think that poem is confusing, because I think the person who wrote it didn't know what to do with her or his life, I think that person haven't found the perfect reason to live.m10m

Sildenafil said...

There is nothing more delicious that to rest, eat well and rest with the person you most want to share their time

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