Monday, February 29, 2016

from Family Matters

Dawn Potter

Even well-loved, well-matched partners, friends, parents, children carry the burden of one another’s art. Writing to [his friend] Jane Kenyon, Hayden Carruth mused, “Meanwhile, the rain falls beautifully. The murmur on the roof is musical and variable. I am in the bedroom so I can hear it, and Joe-Anne has finally stumbled out of bed and gone to work. She’ll be back in a couple of hours. We—all of us—are burdened by history, no doubt of that, but the burden is not so great that we can’t respond to the same events when they recur in the present, the rain, the sunset, the opening of the day lilies. And I suppose that’s a boon.”

Kenyon’s husband, Donald Hall, who watched her die of leukemia, later spoke of how he and his wife had learned to exist together. “Each member of a couple is separate,” he said; “the two come together in double attention. Lovemaking is not a third thing but two-in-one. John Keats can be a third thing, or the Boston Symphony Orchestra, or Dutch interiors, or Monopoly. For many couples, children are a third thing.” For these two poets, poetry was naturally a third thing, but of necessity it could not be the only one.

[The complete essay appears in the winter 2016 issue of the Sewanee Review]


Lucy Grace said...

I going to test the value of my public libraries subscription base before asking you for this essay "offline." I thought Donald Hall's memoir on his life with Jane Kenyon was a fascinating piece of writing. I was glad you used part of it in one of your books. Alas, I forget now which one.

Dawn Potter said...

Lucy, this essay should be available on JSTOR, which I'm sure you have access to.