I’ve been thinking a lot about poet couples lately. I guess there are only a handful of them that go back to the beginning of time, but I could be completely wrong. By poet couples I don’t mean two unrelated poets who together defined an era. I mean two married poets, brother and sister, father and son, etc. They don’t have to define an era, they just have to be in the history books.
There are a few I can think of off the top of my head. Percy and Mary Shelly (though Mary was a novelist, I’m including them), and Elizabeth Barret and Robert Browning. But there is one in particular I have been thinking a lot about.
This summer I have been battling skin cancer, and have come off the battlefield with five holes and incisions in my right leg.Last summer, my mother-in-law lost her too-brief battle with cancer. During that time, and often since, I have thought of Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. They both fought their battle. Donald Hall won his against colon cancer; Jane Kenyon, tragically, lost hers against Leukemia. Hall wrote some really good poetry during these times, specifically what I have read that really touched me is his poem “Last Days” about Kenyon’s final days, the preparations they went through together to be ready (from a practical point of view), for the inevitable.
Perhaps I like this poet couple because of this connection of experience I have with them. I knew of their fights against their respective enemies, but didn’t think much of it until my mother-in-law got sick. But I did read “Last Days” before she got sick, and it brought tears to my eyes — and while my wife will tell you that isn’t hard to do, I hardly ever tear up when I read poetry.
Or perhaps because they are a modern poet couple, but whatever the reason, hats off to Donald Hall and Jane Kenyon. And a low heartfelt bow to boot. I am not going to bust “Last Days,” that almost seems sacrilegious. Since I am not busting it, I can’t really put the poem here, and maybe because of its length, I can’t find a link to it. But I strongly recommend reading it, if you haven’t already