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American Literature

"Bright Unequivocal Eye": Poems, Papers, and Remembrances by Bert G. Hornback

By Bert G. Hornback

In April of 1998 the 1st Jane Kenyon convention introduced jointly Donald corridor, Wendell Berry, Galway Kinnell, Alice Mattison, Gregory Orr, and Joyce Peseroff besides a couple of students, academics, scholars, and admirers of Jane Kenyon's poetry. What was once acknowledged approximately Jane Kenyon and approximately her poetry used to be trained and informative, and infrequently very relocating. This quantity collects poems and feedback approximately her and her paintings by means of corridor, Berry, Kinnell, Mattison, Orr, and Peseroff, in addition to essays through a dozen different convention contributors.

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Extra info for "Bright Unequivocal Eye": Poems, Papers, and Remembrances from the First Jane Kenyon Conference

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What it does is mirror the interplay; it proposes both disorderings and orderings. And this holds true all the way from an epic like the Iliad down to Issa’s haiku about the death of his son. I’d like to shift now to what I think Jane Kenyon writes, the personal lyric, which takes the story of the “I,” the individual self. I think culture invented lyric poetry along with religion and philosophy to help people understand the world, and to discover ordering powers. But religion and philosophy are different in that they propose external ordering powers that exist outside the self, and which the self must align with.

Usually I was glad she saw it that way; I’d been trying to write about something hard, and other people sometimes didn’t notice. In her letters I heard a great deal about depression and sadness: To give you an idea how my mind works when I’m down: When the paper toweling runs low on the roll it makes me sad! Everything makes me sad. Birdsong makes me sad. Late summer flowers make me sad, phlox and asters. (8/9/89) In the workshop and in our friendship, Jane taught me that kindness matters more than success, that success can’t help but matter, that the main thing is to write simply and clearly—and that the main thing is to tell the truth about feeling, no matter how hard that is.

Elizabeth Bishop used to say, “I just write down what happens,” which is, of course, totally absurd. What they both had was this power of locating moments that perfectly symbolize a state of being in which the self is seen in the world. Sometimes it takes Gregory Orr 37  focused moments. One thinks especially of flowers with Jane, the moment in “Peonies at Dusk” where she pulls the peony towards herself and examines it the way one would examine a beloved’s face.

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