Jane Kenyon

The Making of a Poet
Author: Dana Greene
Demystifying the “Poet Laureate of Depression”
Cloth – $29.95
eBook – $14.95
Publication Date
Cloth: 10/10/2023
Buy the Book Request Desk/Examination Copy Request Review Copy Request Rights or Permissions Request Alternate Format Preview

About the Book

Pleasure-loving, sarcastic, stubborn, determined, erotic, deeply sad--Jane Kenyon’s complexity and contradictions found expression in luminous poems that continue to attract a passionate following. Dana Greene draws on a wealth of personal correspondence and other newly available materials to delve into the origins, achievement, and legacy of Kenyon’s poetry and separate the artist’s life story from that of her husband, the award-winning poet Donald Hall.

Impacted by relatives’ depression during her isolated childhood, Kenyon found poetry at college, where writers like Robert Bly encouraged her development. Her graduate school marriage to the middle-aged Hall and subsequent move to New Hampshire had an enormous impact on her life, moods, and creativity. Immersed in poetry, Kenyon wrote about women’s lives, nature, death, mystical experiences, and melancholy--becoming, in her own words, an “advocate of the inner life.” Her breakthrough in the 1980s brought acclaim as “a born poet” and appearances in the New Yorker and elsewhere. Yet her ongoing success and artistic growth exacerbated strains in her marriage and failed to stave off depressive episodes that sometimes left her non-functional. Refusing to live out the stereotype of the mad woman poet, Kenyon sought treatment and confronted her illness in her work and in public while redoubling her personal dedication to finding pleasure in every fleeting moment. Prestigious fellowships, high-profile events, residencies, and media interviews had propelled her career to new heights when leukemia cut her life short and left her husband the loving but flawed curator of her memory and legacy.

Revelatory and insightful, Jane Kenyon offers the first full-length biography of the elusive poet and the unquiet life that shaped her art.

About the Author

Dana Greene is Dean Emerita of Oxford College of Emory University. Her books include Denise Levertov: A Poet’s Life and Elizabeth Jennings: “The Inward War.”

Also by this author

Denise Levertov cover


"A subtle, sensitive portrait of a 'complex, talented, and ambitious' woman. " --Kirkus

"Offers readers a much-needed and nuanced portrait of a poet who believed in the power of art." --Poetry Foundation

"Valuable for admirers of modern and contemporary poetry." --Choice


“Dana Greene’s compulsively readable biography of Jane Kenyon tells the poignant story of the poet’s life, her development and career as a writer, and her long marriage to and partnership with poet Donald Hall. Overshadowed for many years, in life and after her death, by her more famous husband, Kenyon emerges in Greene’s narrative as a fiercely independent and gifted artist in her own right. Greene takes pains to illuminate the complex dynamics of their relationship and to showcase the quiet power and beauty of Jane Kenyon’s work, liberating Kenyon from the prevailing mythos that casts her as a lesser poet and enabling readers to see her anew. Jane Kenyon is a triumph.”--Angela Alaimo O’Donnell, author of Flannery O’Connor: Fiction Fired by Faith