Objective Correlative

By Ann Keniston

Featured Art: The Letter by Alice Pike Barney

All I could do was think of her face.

Or not think of it, the way

after receiving her letter I felt

relief, gratitude, and then

lost the actual note she wrote,

the tiny, lovely photograph

of her children I’d vowed to cherish.

And then I saw: my grief was

the objective correlative, a hook

on which I could hang all the scraps

of whatever other sadnesses

I was more frightened of. And the grief,

like a person, like her in her solicitude,

almost prevented me from seeing this


Ann Keniston is a poet-scholar interested in the relation of the creative to the scholarly. She is the author of several poetry collections, including the 2020 poetry collection Somatic (Terrapin), coeditor of The New American Poetry of Engagement: A 21st Century Anthology (McFarland 2012), and several scholarly studies of contemporary poetry. Her poems have appeared in over thirty journals, including Yale Review, Gettysburg Review, Water-Stone, and Literary Imagination. A professor of English at the University of Nevada, Reno, where she teaches poetry workshops and literature classes, she lives in Reno.

Originally published in NOR 6

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