Having it Out with Melancholy

Kenyon, Jane

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Annotated by:
Coulehan, Jack
  • Date of entry: Aug-03-2005
  • Last revised: Dec-29-2009


A poem in nine parts telling of the poet's life engagement with melancholy. She encounters melancholy first as an infant, when it hides "behind a pile of linen" in her nursery. She passes through a life's worth of bottles of anti-depressant medication. The moment she sees that she is "a speck of light in the great / river of light," melancholy alights on her "like a crow who smells hot blood" and pulls her "out / of the glowing stream." Then she discovers monoamine oxidase inhibitors. "High on Nardil," she finds beauty in the world and is "overcome / by ordinary contentment."


This longer poem (100 lines) presents a series of snapshots of a life narrative in which one of the actors is recurrent depression. Part of its beauty lies in Kenyon's cool, spare, and accessible line. It is definitely a poem for those who don't like or are intimidated by modern poetry. Another part of its beauty, however, lies in the happy ending. Perhaps the poet is "high on Nardil," yet the drug enables her to experience and embrace the lovely ordinariness of life.

Primary Source




Place Published

St. Paul, Minn.