Poets & Writers

A Poet a Day: Jane Kenyon

"From Room to Room" and "Finding a Long Gray Hair"

A Poet a Day: Jane Kenyon

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.”
— Bill Moyers

Today, we have a clip from the 1993 Emmy Award-winning documentary, “A Life Together,” that profiled Jane Kenyon and her husband, Donald Hall, two celebrated American literary figures. Kenyon, who died in 1995, was an award-winning poet and translator; Hall is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry and was named U.S. Poet Laureate in 2006. In this clip she reads two of her poems.

“From Room to Room”

Here in this house, among photographs
of your ancestors, their hymnbooks and old
shoes …

I move from room to room,
a little dazed, like the fly. I watch it
bump against each window.

I am clumsy here, thrusting
slabs of maple into the stove.
Out of my body for a while,
weightless in space….

the wind against the clapboard
sounds like a car driving up to the house.

My people are not here, my mother
and father, my brother. I talk
to the cats about weather.

“Blessed be the tie that binds …”
we sing in the church down the road.
And how does it go from there? The tie …

the tether, the hose carrying
oxygen to the astronaut,
turning, turning outside the hatch,
taking a look around.

“Finding a Long Gray Hair”

I scrub the long floorboards
in the kitchen, repeating
the motions of other women
who have lived in this house.
And when I find a long gray hair
floating in the pail,
I feel my life added to theirs.

Watch the entire hour-long episode of “A Life Together.”


Jane Kenyon was born on May 23, 1947, in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and grew up in the Midwest. She earned a BA from the University of Michigan in 1970 and an MA in 1972. That same year, Kenyon married the poet Donald Hall, whom she had met while studying at the University of Michigan.

Kenyon published four books of poetry during her lifetime: “Constance” (Graywolf Press, 1993), “Let Evening Come” (Graywolf Press, 1990), “The Boat of Quiet Hours” (Graywolf Press, 1986), and “From Room to Room” (Alice James Books, 1978), as well as a book of translation, “Twenty Poems of Anna Akhmatova” (Ally Press, 1985). She received a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1981.

She was named poet laureate of New Hampshire in 1995 and died of leukemia on on April 22 of that year.

(Bio courtesy of Poets.org)