Without is Donald Hall's thirteenth book of poems. It was written in memory of his wife, the poet, Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia in their New Hampshire home at the age of 47. Interspersed among the poems in the first half of this book is a major poem, "Her Long Illness." Following that poem is the title poem.

Without is followed by a series of poems, titled as letters ("Midsummer Letter," "Letter After a Year," etc.) that chronicle Hall's grief and his attempt to go on living--without his wife. The final poem in the collection, "Weeds and Peonies," places speaker and reader in Kenyon's garden a year after her death and ends as we see her "peonies lean their vast heads westward / as if they might topple. Some topple."


Hall's careful construction of this book of poems gives it a strong narrative quality. Thus, it also reads as a story, in fact as a number of stories skillfully intertwined. There is, of course, the story of Kenyon's illness and death, and the story of Hall and Kenyon's relationship before and after her death. But we also gain insight into Hall's own battle with a life-threatening illness, as well as the losses they both faced as their mothers died during Kenyon's demise.

Note: See also related annotations of Hall's poem, The Ship Pounding and Kenyon's poem, The Sick Wife.


Houghton Mifflin

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