The Painted Bed: Poems

The Painted Bed: Poems

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by Donald Hall
     
 

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Affirmation

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young, we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage, that began without harm, scatters into debris on the shore, and a friend from school drops cold on a rocky

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Overview


Affirmation

To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young, we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage, that began without harm, scatters into debris on the shore, and a friend from school drops cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us past middle age, our wife will die at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces that she is temporary is temporary. The bold woman, middle-aged against our old age, sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge and affirm that it is fitting and delicious to lose everything.

Editorial Reviews

After Hall's wife, poet Jane Kenyon, died in 1995, the writer gained a new, dark muse who has influenced his last two poetry collections. With this book, Hall enters another stage of grief. In "Distressed Haiku," he writes, "You think that their / dying is the worst / thing that could happen // Then they stay dead." Every line of these seemingly simple, heartbreaking poems bears Hall's distinctive musical mark. His ear for rhythm and movement is flawless, confirming his position as a master of both open form and conventional rhymed verse. Hall's work exhibits the terrible suffering of the bereaved with dignity and beauty.
—Stephen Whited

Publishers Weekly
Hall has for decades been an eminent poet and critic; his previous book, Without (1999), was a raw collection of elegies for his late wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, that brought attention to their lives and work. More controlled, more varied and more powerful, this taut follow-up volume reexamines Hall's grief while exploring the life he has made since. The book's first poem, "Kill the Day," stands among the best Hall has ever written. It examines mourning in 16 long-lined stanzas, alternating catalogue with aphorism, understatement with keened lament: "How many times will he die in his own lifetime?" Two groups of terse, short-lined free verse proffer stories and moments from Kenyon's last days and from Hall's first days without her: "You think that their dying is the worst thing that could happen. Then they stay dead." Subsequent brief stanzaic lyrics take both epigraph and method from Thomas Hardy's poems on the loss of his wife: some will please both Hardy's fans and Hall's. But even those fans may skip "Daylilies on the Hill," a lengthy and overly detailed verse history of the by now familiar New Hampshire house that Hall and Kenyon shared. The book's last poems range from raunchy to wise as they explore sex in later age "Sometimes our red fitted sheets maneuvered to embrace us like pythons." The final poem, ironically called "Affirmation," contains a more typical and typically stark prediction: "If a new love carries us past middle age, our wife will die at her strongest and most beautiful." (Apr.) Forecast: The press blitz that accompanied Without won't materialize here, but it won't matter to Hall's (and Kenyon's) many readers. Look for broader reviews centered on the poetry of illness and grief that could include this book, Alan Shapiro's Song & Dance (Forecasts, Dec. 17, 2001), Linda Pastan's The Last Uncle (Forecasts, Jan. 21) and Donald Revell's Arcady (reviewed below). Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From the Publisher

"A compelling, sometimes shocking, and certainly deeply moving depiction of bereavement." --Sally Connolly, POETRY

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780618340750
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
04/08/2003
Edition description:
First Mariner Books Edition
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
986,822
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.31(d)

Read an Excerpt

Her Garden
I let her garden go.

let it go, let it go How can I watch the hummingbird
Hover to sip
With its beak's tip The purple bee balm—whirring as we heard
It years ago?
The weeds rise rank and thick
let it go, let it go Where annuals grew and burdock grows,
Where standing she
At once could see The peony, the lily, and the rose
Rise over brick She'd laid in patterns. Moss
let it go, let it go Turns the bricks green, softening them
By the gray rocks
Where hollyhocks That lofted while she lived, stem by tall stem,
Dwindle in loss.
Affirmation To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young, we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage, that began without harm, scatters into debris on the shore, and a friend from school drops cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us past middle age, our wife will die at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces that she is temporary is temporary. The bold woman, middle-aged against our old age, sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge and affirm that it is fitting and delicious to lose everything.
Copyright © 2002 by Donald Hall. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Meet the Author

DONALD HALL, who served as poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president.


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