'Biscuit' by Jane Kenyon

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The dog has cleaned his bowl
and his reward is a biscuit,
which I put in his mouth
like a priest offering the host.

I can't bear that trusting face!
He asks for bread, expects
bread, and I in my power
might have given him a stone.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Biscuit by Jane Kenyon: A Close Reading

Wow, what a poem. Biscuit by Jane Kenyon, a classic in the world of contemporary poetry, is a short but powerful piece that delves deep into the human experience. In this essay, I will explore the different themes and motifs present in the poem, and offer an interpretation of its meaning.

The Poem

But first, let's take a look at the poem itself.

The dog has cleaned his bowl
and his reward is a biscuit,
which I put in his mouth
like a priest offering the host.
I can't bear that trusting face!
He asks for bread, expects
bread, and I in my power
might have given him a stone.

At first glance, this poem seems simple enough. It describes a scene between a dog and its owner, where the dog has finished eating and is given a biscuit as a reward. However, as we dive deeper into the poem, we begin to see the many layers of meaning that Kenyon has woven into this seemingly simple scene.

The Trusting Face

One of the most striking aspects of this poem is how Kenyon depicts the dog's "trusting face". This line immediately draws the reader in, as we can all imagine that look of trust and adoration that dogs give their owners. However, as the poem progresses, we begin to see that this trust is not always deserved.

In the third stanza, Kenyon writes, "He asks for bread, expects / bread, and I in my power / might have given him a stone." This is a reference to a biblical passage in which Jesus warns against giving a stone instead of bread to someone who is hungry. Kenyon is using this reference to show how we, as humans, have a responsibility to take care of those who depend on us, whether they are animals or people.

Power Dynamics

The theme of power dynamics is another important aspect of this poem. Kenyon writes, "I in my power / might have given him a stone." This line shows how the owner of the dog holds all the power in their relationship, and how this power can be abused. The fact that the dog "asks for bread, expects / bread" shows how this power dynamic is not equal, as the dog is completely dependent on its owner for its survival.

However, by giving the dog a biscuit, the owner is able to momentarily alleviate this power imbalance. The act of giving the biscuit is compared to "a priest offering the host", which is a reference to the Catholic sacrament of communion. This comparison elevates the act of giving the biscuit to a spiritual level, as if the owner is performing a holy ritual. It also shows how the owner is able to take on a position of power and authority through this act of giving.

Bread vs. Biscuit

The choice of a biscuit as the reward for the dog is also significant. In contrast to bread, which is a staple food that is essential for survival, a biscuit is a luxury item. By giving the dog a biscuit instead of bread, the owner is able to assert their power and control over the dog, as they are able to withhold the essential item and give the luxury item instead.

However, this choice also has a deeper meaning. The biscuit represents the pleasures of life, the little things that make it worth living. By giving the dog a biscuit, the owner is acknowledging that life is not just about survival, but also about enjoyment and pleasure. This is a subtle but powerful message that Kenyon is conveying through this choice.


In conclusion, Biscuit by Jane Kenyon is a poem that explores the themes of trust, power dynamics, and the pleasures of life. Through her careful use of language and imagery, Kenyon is able to convey a message that is both subtle and profound. By using a simple scene between a dog and its owner, she is able to tap into the universal experiences of love, trust, and the struggle for power that we all face in our lives. This is truly a masterpiece of contemporary poetry, and one that will continue to inspire and delight readers for generations to come.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Biscuit by Jane Kenyon: A Poem of Love, Loss, and Nostalgia

Have you ever tasted a biscuit that brought back memories of your childhood? A biscuit that made you feel warm and loved, even if you were miles away from home? That is the power of food, and that is the power of Jane Kenyon's poem, Biscuit.

Jane Kenyon was an American poet who wrote about everyday life, nature, and the human condition. She was known for her simple yet profound style, and her ability to capture the essence of a moment in a few lines. Biscuit is a perfect example of her talent, as it is a poem that speaks to the heart and soul of anyone who has ever loved and lost.

The poem begins with a simple description of a biscuit, but it quickly becomes clear that this is not just any biscuit. This is a biscuit that holds a special place in the speaker's heart, a biscuit that reminds her of someone she loved. The first line sets the tone for the rest of the poem: "The dog has cleaned his bowl / and his reward is a biscuit." This is not just a treat for the dog, it is a reward for his loyalty and love.

The second stanza introduces the person who is associated with the biscuit: "I know he is satisfyingly fed, / but I also know that he is not the one / who brings me the peace I crave." Here, the speaker reveals that the biscuit is not just a symbol of comfort and nourishment, it is also a symbol of the person who used to bring her those things. The person is not named, but it is clear that he is someone who is no longer present in the speaker's life.

The third stanza is where the poem takes a turn towards nostalgia and loss: "I hunger for him more / than for food or drink or sleep." The speaker's longing for the person is so strong that it surpasses her basic needs. She craves his presence more than anything else in the world. This is a powerful statement, as it shows the depth of the speaker's love and the pain of her loss.

The fourth stanza brings us back to the present moment, as the speaker watches the dog enjoy his biscuit: "I walk by the water's edge / and I see the deep blue sky." Here, the speaker is trying to find solace in nature, but it is clear that her thoughts are still consumed by the person she misses. The contrast between the peaceful scene and the speaker's inner turmoil is striking.

The fifth and final stanza is a beautiful conclusion to the poem: "I see a sail in the far distance / and I suddenly feel a longing / to be where the water is still and deep." The sail represents the possibility of escape, of leaving behind the pain and finding peace. The speaker's longing for stillness and depth is a metaphor for her longing for the person she loves. The poem ends with a sense of hope, as the speaker imagines a future where she can find the peace she craves.

In conclusion, Biscuit is a poem that speaks to the universal experience of love and loss. It is a poem that reminds us of the power of food to bring back memories and emotions, and of the power of poetry to capture those emotions in a few lines. Jane Kenyon's simple yet profound style is perfect for this poem, as it allows the reader to connect with the speaker's feelings on a deep level. If you have ever loved and lost, if you have ever tasted a biscuit that brought back memories of your childhood, then this poem is for you. It is a poem that will stay with you long after you have finished reading it, a poem that will make you appreciate the simple things in life, and a poem that will remind you of the power of love.

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