Paging through Jane Kenyon’s A Hundred White Daffodils, a collection of essays and assorted writing that was published posthumously, I found the one poem that concludes the book. “Woman, Why Are You Weeping?” is a long poem about religious faith, the Third-World crisis and race – not topics I associate with Kenyon.
Jane Kenyon died in April 1995 from leukemia. I like to remember her writing about tending her New England flower garden. Maybe the daffodils were showing themselves that April.
I had the chance to walk with her briefly at a Dodge Poetry Festival more than 20 years ago. She needed directions to the church where she was set to read with her husband, Donald Hall. I was going to the reading and walked with her from the sawmill and along the Musconetcong River. It was early autumn and we talked a bit about New Jersey and she asked me if I knew what some wildflowers were that grew along the river edge. I really wish I had known. She asked me if I wrote. I said I did. She said she hoped I had someone I could share my writing with.
Kenyon and Hall read poems and talked about their life together. The conversation later appeared in several Bill Moyers specials.
One poem she read that day was “Let Evening Come” from her collection of the same name. The poem fit very well into that afternoon.
Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving
up the bales as the sun moves down.
Let the cricket take up chafing
as a woman takes up her needles
and her yarn. Let evening come.
Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.
Let the fox go back to its sandy den.
Let the wind die down. Let the shed
go black inside. Let evening come.
To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop
in the oats, to air in the lung
let evening come.
Let it come, as it will, and don’t
be afraid. God does not leave us
comfortless, so let evening come.
The blog, Brain Pickings has been collecting advice about writing and excerpted some of Jane’s advice from the book. Lots of writers give advice. You can try Zadie Smith’s 10 Rules or Dani Shapiro‘s book of advice Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life. Shapiro mentions that she keeps a short list from Kenyon over her desk.
I don’t think Jane’s advice is just for poets or even just for writers. Here’s her brief list that you can post over your desk.
Be a good steward of your gifts.
Protect your time.
Feed your inner life.
Avoid too much noise.
Read good books, have good sentences in your ears.
Be by yourself as often as you can.
Take the phone off the hook.
Work regular hours.