Jane Kenyon – The Suitor

I know this is going to start sounding like a lame excuse, but again, because of circumstances beyond my control, I was not able to make a post yesterday. When I went to make it, my computer had been attacked by malware, and I couldn’t even use my mouse. So I’m trying to do this quickly and surreptiously while at work.

Jane Kenyon – “The Suitor”

We lie back to back. Curtains
lift and fall,
like the chest of someone sleeping.
Wind moves the leaves of the box elder;
they show their light undersides,
turning all at once
like a school of fish.
Suddenly I understand that I am happy.
For months this feeling
has been coming closer, stopping
for short visits, like a timid suitor.

From Otherwise: New & Selected Poems by Jane Kenyon, published by Graywolf Press. Copyright © 1996 by the Estate of Jane Kenyon. Used with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota. All rights reserved.

CAUTION: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws of the United States, and that distribution as printed material is strictly forbidden.

Commentary
Another Kenyon poem, to show her more typical style. Simple, physical, descriptive. Even the metaphors are fairly straightforward: chest of someone sleeping, school of fish, timid suitor. They’re rather concrete and, to me, vivid. They also have the peculiar effect of making me see a picture of both the original subject AND the thing it is being compared to – with most metaphors, I only see one or the other, even if one effectively helps me to understand the other.

And emotions are dealt with matter-of-factly – she says she is happy, but doesn’t give us any adjectives or anything to dramatize the situation. As in most Kenyon poems, a very brief moment is portrayed, but described with such power that it becomes present to the reader. Here, the speaker tells us the feeling of happiness has been coming to her, but often this is left unsaid in her work, the building up of that moment latent in the imagery and language. It works in this case, though; the “timid suitor” similie works well with the soft blowing of the curtains, the gently swaying leaves, the resting bodies. A strong way of depicting happiness without getting sentimental.

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One Response to Jane Kenyon – The Suitor

  1. Angele Ellis says:

    Yes, in Kenyon’s hands, material that could be hackneyed is tender and profound…”the timid suitor” of happiness. Kenyon has a gift for capturing delicate moments, small revelations, due not only to her lyric sensitivity but (I believe) to her lifelong struggle against chronic depression, and the sharpened sense of joy she experienced when coming out of or waking up from a prolonged episode.

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