The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon

The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon

Donald Hall / May 30, 2020

The Best Day the Worst Day Life with Jane Kenyon A candid memoir of love art and grief from a celebrated man of letters United States poet laureate Donald HallIn an intimate record of his twenty three year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon Donald Hal

  • Title: The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon
  • Author: Donald Hall
  • ISBN: 9780618773626
  • Page: 254
  • Format: Paperback
  • A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald HallIn an intimate record of his twenty three year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing,A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald HallIn an intimate record of his twenty three year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing, gardening, caring for pets, and connecting with their rural community through friends and church The Best Day the Worst Day presents a portrait of the inner moods of the best marriage I know about, as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane s leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months Between recollections of better times, Hall shares with readers the daily ordeal of Jane s dying through heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring storytelling.

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      Published :2019-07-15T20:43:43+00:00

    About "Donald Hall"

      • Donald Hall

        Donald Hall was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928 He began writing as an adolescent and attended the Bread Loaf Writers Conference at the age of sixteen the same year he had his first work published He earned a B.A from Harvard in 1951 and a B Litt from Oxford in 1953.Donald Hall has published numerous books of poetry, most recently White Apples and the Taste of Stone Selected Poems 1946 2006 Houghton Mifflin, 2006 The Painted Bed 2002 and Without Poems 1998 , which was published on the third anniversary of his wife and fellow poet Jane Kenyon s death from leukemia Other notable collections include The One Day 1988 , which won the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a Pulitzer Prize nomination The Happy Man 1986 , which won the Lenore Marshall Poetry Prize and Exiles and Marriages 1955 , which was the Academy s Lamont Poetry Selection for 1956.In a review of Hall s recent Selected Poems, Billy Collins wrote in the Washington Post Hall has long been placed in the Frostian tradition of the plainspoken rural poet His reliance on simple, concrete diction and the no nonsense sequence of the declarative sentence gives his poems steadiness and imbues them with a tone of sincere authority It is a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines Besides poetry, Donald Hall has written books on baseball, the sculptor Henry Moore, and the poet Marianne Moore He is also the author of children s books, including Ox Cart Man 1979 , which won the Caldecott Medal short stories, including Willow Temple New and Selected Stories Houghton Mifflin, 2003 and plays He has also published several autobiographical works, such as The Best Day The Worst Day Life with Jane Kenyon 2005 and Life Work 1993 , which won the New England Book award for nonfiction.Hall has edited than two dozen textbooks and anthologies, including The Oxford Book of Children s Verse in America 1990 , The Oxford Book of American Literary Anecdotes 1981 , New Poets of England and America with Robert Pack and Louis Simpson, 1957 , and Contemporary American Poetry 1962 revised 1972 He served as poetry editor of The Paris Review from 1953 to 1962, and as a member of editorial board for poetry at Wesleyan University Press from 1958 to 1964.His honors include two Guggenheim fellowships, the Poetry Society of America s Robert Frost Silver medal, a Lifetime Achievement award from the New Hampshire Writers and Publisher Project, and the Ruth Lilly Prize for poetry Hall also served as Poet Laureate of New Hampshire from 1984 to 1989 In December 1993 he and Jane Kenyon were the subject of an Emmy Award winning Bill Moyers documentary, A Life Together In the June 2006, Hall was appointed the Library of Congress s fourteenth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry He lives in Danbury, New Hampshire.


    1. I have, for quite some time, been fascinated by the Jane Kenyon/Donald Hall marriage and its tragic end. I came to it through JK's poems, which I continue to find deep and yet deceptively simple. I didn't find her until just after she died.When DH published his book Without I bought it immediately. However, I was somewhat disappointed. While some of the poems were deeply affecting, I found others to be closer to just a flat out retelling of the events around Jane's death.When I saw DH read about [...]

    2. This is among my favorite books. Donald Hall's stark portrait of his own grief has allowed me to feel the cherishment that existed within their relationship. This gift they gave one another is framed within the minutiae of everyday living, heightening the sense of their bonds of love and mutual respect for the reader. For me, it was an opportunity to gain some limited emotional access to a kind of relationship I've always believed to exist, but which I've not experienced in my own life. Poetic w [...]

    3. No one, with the possible exception of C.S. Lewis, writes about the loss of a spouse as accurately and movingly as Donald Hall. Gave it four stars last week, thought about it more, and raised it to five. That good.

    4. OtherwiseJane KenyonI got out of bedon two strong legs.It might have beenotherwise. I atecereal, sweetmilk, ripe, flawlesspeach. It mighthave been otherwise.I took the dog uphillto the birch wood.All morning I didthe work I love.At noon I lay downwith my mate. It mighthave been otherwise.We ate dinner togetherat a table with silvercandlesticks. It mighthave been otherwise.I slept in a bedin a room with paintingson the walls, andplanned another dayjust like this day.But one day, I know,it will be [...]

    5. A close friend always remarks about Jane Kenyon's poetry - and I'm not even familiar with her work. (now I am) So, when I came across this book, I just downloaded it. This was not an easy book to read, but it is one of the most impactful books I've read recently. The book is from Donald Hall's , Jane's husband, perspective as he cares for his wife, Jane, during her battle with leukemia. He's writing posthumously - you know that from the outset; what works so well is that interspersed with chapte [...]

    6. Best poets: worst memoir. Love the poetry of Jane Kenyon, like the poetry of Donald Hall (except for his collection Without, which I personally could have done Without), but the tedious details in this book are only for scholars of the couple and/or their marriage. Which makes me sound hard-hearted, given the topicI guess maybe I amt really though. I just want the author to do the work of selecting the details that should have meaning for readers, not cataloging all of them.

    7. Beautifully written and heartbreaking memoir of the author's life with poet Jane Kenyon, who, at 19 years his junior, became his second wife. The book remembers the joys and sorrows of their 23-year marriage, culminating with her untimely death from leukemia at age 47.

    8. The Best Day the Worst Day is Donald Hall’s remembering of his marriage, wife's illness, and her death. Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia at the age of forty seven, was a well-known poet. Hall’s writing is detached and factual, reflecting on both triumphant moments of the marriage, as well as the horrible pain Kenyon experienced in her search for a cure. The writing is not devoid of emotion, but rather shows the epitome of show don’t tell in the face of great emotional drama. Hall makes th [...]

    9. I was going through my library’s biography and memoir collection, and almost got rid of this one: no one had checked it out much, or in several years, and we need room for things that will check out much, and this year. Instead I took it home on a whim… was it the cover I liked? The synopsis? Maybe I read a page or two and enjoyed Hall’s narrative.I am not a reader of poetry, and so I didn’t read this book for know the names of the poets Jane Kenyon and Donald Hall. I am often drawn to b [...]

    10. I first read this book a couple of years ago when I was putting together a marketing plan for my own book, also a narrative that has at its center a medical story but which reaches far beyond to become a tale of family and relationships. I decided to read it again because I missed so much during my initial scan; I'm glad I did. I have followed Hall for some time, not only for his writing but for a very non-literary reason--I spent my weekends and summers at a home in New Hampshire very near Hall [...]

    11. I haven't read much of his work, but I like what I know of Donald Hall. Former U.S. poet laureate, gifted poet and essayist, husband of the late New Hampshire poet laureate Jane Kenyon. This book is a memoir of his life with Jane, his beloved wife. She died in 1995 after a long struggle with leukemia. The clarity that Hall brings to the documentation of his wife's demise is heart-rending. I find it fascinating to watch a writer deal with his own grief in such a lucid manner. (Come to think of it [...]

    12. In a book of terrible beauty, writer Donald Hall describes in alternating chapters his life with and then the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon. I admire Jane Kenyon's sparse packed style. (Last year I used her famous "Let Evening Come" in my middle school writing class when I taught how to analyze poetry.)This is the testimony of a great love and two lives well lived as well as an honest portrait of one woman's final illness and death.

    13. Donald Hall, who was U.S. poet laureate a few years back, released this book shortly after the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon. It's mostly a memoir of their love affair, but it's honest enough that it doesn't feel gushy. I loved it, and I plan on reading it again.

    14. (3.5)Poetry gives the griever not release from grief but companionship in grief. Poetry embodies the complexity of feelings at their most intense and entangled, and therefore offers (over centuries, or over no time at all) the company of tears. . . It was a year with out seasons, a year without punctuation. I began to write "Without" to embody the sensations of lives under dreary, monotonous assault.

    15. Really excellent but incredibly slow read.Such excruciating detail about Jane Kenyon's illness and eventual death.Beautiful and brutal. I had to finish it, it took me months, luckily the library let me extend my check out date.This was very good but to deal with the pain of grief I would recommend Donald Hall's "Without". That is a phenomenal book.

    16. I first got to know about Donald Hall through his excellent piece on New Yorker call Double Solitude. It's really sad but a great read. I also remarked that this man truly loved his wife. So, I suggest to read this one first. Then I read this book. From the very first chapter towards the end, it's failed with sadness, happiness, almost alternatively. It's truly one of the great books I have read so far.

    17. I read Hall's Unpacking the Boxes late last year, and was a little disappointed to find out that he didn't really spend much time on his marriage to Jane Kenyon - that was in a different book (this one). The two were originally intended to be one book, but editors thought it better to separate them. I can see the benefits of the two volumes being separate, but I can't really think of them distinctly. While I really appreciated both, The Best Day is a much more painful read; if you have had famil [...]

    18. The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon by Donald HallThis was a difficult book to read, but at the same time it was sweet and tender. Older poet, a professor, meets younger poet, a student. They marry. They enjoy nearly twenty years together, living, with their cats and dog, their books and typewriters, in an old New Hampshire farmhouse that had belonged to the husband’s family for three generations. One day the wife was diagnosed with leukemia. She lived for fifteen more months, un [...]

    19. 3.5 starsI have a dream/fantasy of being half of a literary couple. Of living a literary life. My husband, who self-identifies as a blue collar worker, generally doesn't play along. But there are isolated moments when we read a book aloud together, or sit at the table of an evening and both work on a writing project. We have fun discussions, wading in the current of ideas, exchanging quotations, exploring thoughts out to their conclusions. This kind of book fuels those dreams. It's a sad book of [...]

    20. 1977: I read in a rhetoric/reader Donald Hall's "An Ethic of Clarity," and I immediately became a Donald Hall fan. Jane Who?1993: I watched A LIFE TOGETHER, a Bill Moyers documentary about Hall and Kenyon; and Kenyon's reading of her poem "Otherwise" made me a Jane Kenyon fan. Donald Hall had recently undergone surgery to remove cancer in his liver, a metastasis of previously treated colon cancer; and in "Otherwise," Kenyon's anticipation of the loss of her beloved is hitched to her appreciation [...]

    21. I was first introduced to the work of Donald Hall when one of his titles caught my attention - "Unpacking the Boxes." Upon reading the book, I made the acquaintance of his wife, the poet and writer Jane Kenyon. I became fascinated by the woman who while a student at Michigan took one of his poetry courses and became hooked on poetry and writing. Having written some poetry myself, I am fascinated by how someone shapes their craft and writing style. "Unpacking the Boxes" is the story of how Donald [...]

    22. I've only read one other book by Donald Hall (Essays After Eighty) and neither book was poetry, which he is best known for. I plan to remedy that in the future, especially after having been introduced to his nonfiction. His writing intrigues me: he is very detailed, almost to the point of making his prose too cluttered, but he redeems himself by inserting observations and bits that show that he was never lost in the details; that, in fact, he was just noticing things more closely than some (most [...]

    23. Absolutely heartbreaking….A powerful account of Donald Hall’s and Jane Kenyon’s lives together, especially dealing with Kenyon’s leukemia in the last few years of her life. I decided to read this after being awed by Kenyon’s Collected Poems, which often reference incidents or aspects of life mentioned here. I am also reading Hall’s Without (not too familiar with his work), a poetry collection focused on Kenyon’s last days (as well as other losses they experience during that time, s [...]

    24. I don't know what to make of this book. I didn't know much about Hall or Kenyon before reading it. The title popped up as a recommendation because I'd read Joan Didion's "Blue Nights," but if you're looking for a spare, elliptical memoir like that, . . . well, this isn't it. In some ways this is a very old-school kind of autobiography with reports of visits and travels that sometimes just pass by in a blur. And while this is clearly a book about Hall and Kenyon's relationship, I did wonder what [...]

    25. While this book will have more meaning to readers of Kenyon's and Hall's poetry--and I suggest at a minimum, reading Kenyon's _Otherwise_ and Hall's _Without_ for a better sense of context before beginning--I thought it was a remarkable memoir of a marriage of artistic minds committed to living in many ways outside of modern consumer society, and an intimate portrait of a life together and the loss of that life. The structure of the book is particularly powerful: Hall juxtaposes chapters on thei [...]

    26. Donald Hall's book about life with Jane Kenyon is a worthwhile read. The style of writing felt odd initially, not exactly elegant prose. Instead Hall writes a clipped chronicle, almost a list at times of the things the two did during their time together. I found it a bit disconcerting at first, having especially admired Hall's Life Work which was beautifully constructed prose. Was the man getting old? Losing his proficiency with words? No, I decided as I read on and found myself falling into the [...]

    27. This memoir tells the story of dying in all its tedium and profundity. Poet Donald Hall describes his poet wife Jane Kenyon's long and painful death to leukemia sometimes poetically and other times pedantically. I found parts of this book to be absolutely profound, inspiring, and brilliant. Certain lines brought me to tears and deep emotion. But death is not always poetic, as this book so consistently reminds. Much of the memoir is dedicated to describing minute and banal day to day life and day [...]

    28. Donald Hall was a poet laureate of the U.S. I had read his book Work about the rhythms of his day regarding writing, reading, and analysis, and quite enjoyed it. That experience influenced me to pick up this book that traces his 23-year marriage to Jane Kenyon, also a poet. Alternating chapters cover year one through about year 21 of their time together. The other chapters discuss the 18 months from her diagnosis of cancer until her death. This is a very intimate view of their marriage, to the p [...]

    29. Matt gave me the Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems for my 27th birthday and I have loved her ever since. I came to appreciate Donald Hall later, but just as much, and his memoir of their marriage and Jane’s death is nearly perfect. It’s strange to think of such a book as beautiful, and even -- at times -- uplifting and inspiring, but it is. Still, I read the last two chapters very slowly, not wanting to read the inevitable end. It is a book both heavy and light, and I think this is one that wi [...]

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