While teaching at U. Michigan he met the poet Jane Kenyon. They married and the couple moved in 1975 to Wilmot, New Hampshire. Her death 20 years later of leukemia (after his own bouts with colon and liver cancer) cast a pall of grief over his work of that period which is best characterized by a line in the poem “Kill the Day”: ‘How many times will he die in his own lifetime?’
He has 20 collections of poetry, 11 children’s books, 3 dramas, and 2 volumes each of biography, short stories, and memoirs. His recognitions include U.S. Poet Laureate, N.H. State Laureate, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for Lifetime Achievement, and numerous book awards and prizes.
Ox Cart Man
In October of the year,
he counts potatoes dug from the brown field,
counting the seed, counting
the cellar's portion out,
and bags the rest on the cart's floor.
He packs wool sheared in April, honey
in combs, linen, leather
tanned from deerhide,
and vinegar in a barrel
hooped by hand at the forge's fire.
He walks by his ox's head, ten days
to Portsmouth Market, and sells potatoes,
and the bag that carried potatoes,
flaxseed, birch brooms, maple sugar, goose
When the cart is empty he sells the cart.
When the cart is sold he sells the ox,
harness and yoke, and walks
home, his pockets heavy
with the year's coin for salt and taxes,
and at home by fire's light in November cold
stitches new harness
for next year's ox in the barn,
and carves the yoke, and saws planks
building the cart again.
Old and New Poems