Poet Jane Kenyon earned wide acclaim for her clear, vivid, deeply spiritual lyrics, many of them written in the face of her own mortality. During the year of her dying, Hayden Carruth’s faithful correspondence, collected here, is a testament to the depth of their friendship, and a rare window into the inner life of a major poet as he confronts the loss of a dear friend. Both Carruth and Kenyon have devoted followings; Letters to Jane offers unique and personal new insight into their poetry and connection.
“The considerable beauty of these letters from an old poet—written from April 1994 to April 1995—derives from the clear-eyed charm that enlivens Carruth’s best writing… The best sections are when he gets out of the house and finds new things to complain about. ‘Here I am on my balcony with a finger or two of cognac, a cigar, and a laptop computer, wearing my black jeans and my Reeboks. God, it’s awful.’ …Carruth has become one of our foremost masters of perceiving the minute details of our quotidian lives. Even at his grumpiest, there’s genuine wisdom here. ‘My New Year’s resolution is to write something for myself every day, or at least every day when I don’t have a hangover.’ Every poet, young or old, would do well to follow suit. And the rest of us may just be tempted to switch off our email programs sometime soon and pick up pen and paper instead.” —The Washington Post
“Twenty-six years older than Kenyon and, at 73, with plenty of his own medical history, Carruth understood and commiserated with her about the pain and ardors of treatment and hospitalization, and shared with her the mortal humor of being ill and hurting… Surely these newsy, unpretentious, intelligent missives lifted Kenyon’s spirits; certainly they do ours.” —Booklist
“The risk of a book like this is that it might become a tribute to the writer’s constancy. But these letters, though about Carruth, accrue, just as they should, to a testament to the ‘power and sweetness’ of Jane Kenyon and her lifesaving poems, and to the wonderful good luck of being her friend. If a life coming to its close is made up of moments, Carruth again and again holds out his hand to offer Jane Kenyon his own. What greater act of friendship can there be? As witness to it, one can’t help but mourn, then, when the letters end and there is no more hearer for these plain-spoken words of love.” —NewPages
“Letters to Jane bursts with exuberance, good cheer and with life itself, life sustained in the face of Old Mortality.” —The Sewanee Review
“… Its tone is pure, clear, and exact. It is music that Jane Kenyon would have recognized.” —Michigan Quarterly Review
“His letters are compiled in a notebook of loss, solace, and celebration of friendship.” —Foreword Magazine
“I read [Letters to Jane] cover-to-cover three times before my own pen and paper would speak about it. Love so honest silences me, I suppose… The love for Jane that Carruth describes—’I have an impulse to stroke your head, your lovely curly half-gray hair, but am uncertain if it would be acceptable’—is clearly one strand, one note of the chord of affection that this poet shares with such others as Galway Kinnell, Stephen Dobyns, Adrienne Rich, Francine Prose, and many not yet as well-known. Although the music of this affection is tender and passionate, it is irresistibly peppered with humor and hangovers, aches and amazement. Details of the car, the dog, the mingled tedium and joy of giving readings, these declare that age need not be bland or flavorless, even when it weighs heavily on body and soul… May we embrace life and friends as thoroughly as this poet and his letters have done.” —Kingdom Books Blog