Donald Hall, 89. one-time US Poet Laureate
(too old to reply)
That Derek
2018-06-25 03:11:57 UTC


Prolific, painfully candid ex-poet laureate Donald Hall dies

By HILLEL ITALIE AP National Writer
Jun 24, 2018 Updated 2 hrs ago

FILE - In this June 13, 2006, file photo, Donald Hall, author of numerous poetry books, poses in the barn of the 200-year-old Wilmot farm that has been in his family for four generations. Hall, a prolific, award-winning poet and man of letters widely admired for his sharp humor and painful candor about nature, mortality, baseball and the distant past, died at age 89. Hall's daughter, Philippa Smith, confirmed Sunday, June 24, 2018, that her father died Saturday at his home in Wilmot, after being in hospice care for some time. (AP Photo/Jim Cole, File)


Prolific, painfully candid ex-poet laureate Donald Hall dies

FILE - In this March 2, 2011, file photo, President Barack Obama presents a 2010 National Medal of Arts to poet Donald Hall, during in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington. Hall, a prolific, award-winning poet and man of letters widely admired for his sharp humor and painful candor about nature, mortality, baseball and the distant past, has died at age 89. Hall's daughter, Philippa Smith, confirmed Sunday, June 24, 2018, that her father died Saturday at his home in Wilmot, New Hampshire, after being in hospice care for some time. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Charles Dharapak

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Hall, a prolific, award-winning poet and man of letters widely admired for his sharp humor and painful candor about nature, mortality, baseball and the distant past, has died at age 89.

Hall's daughter, Philippa Smith, confirmed Sunday that her father died Saturday at his home in Wilmot, New Hampshire, after being in hospice care for some time.

"He's really quite amazingly versatile," said Hall's long-time friend Mike Pride, the editor emeritus of the Concord Monitor newspaper and a retired administrator of the Pulitzer Prizes. He said Hall would occasionally speak to reporters at the Monitor about the importance of words.

Hall was the nation's 2006-2007 poet laureate.

Starting in the 1950s, Hall published more than 50 books, from poetry and drama to biography and memoirs, and edited a pair of influential anthologies. He was an avid baseball fan who wrote odes to his beloved Boston Red Sox, completed a book on pitcher Dock Ellis and contributed to Sports Illustrated. He wrote a prize-winning children's book, "Ox-Cart Man," and even attempted a biography of Charles Laughton, only to have his actor's widow, Elsa Lanchester, kill the project.

But the greatest acclaim came for his poetry, for which his honors included a National Book Critics Circle prize, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a National Medal of Arts. Although his style varied from haikus to blank verse, he returned repeatedly to a handful of themes: his childhood, the death of his parents and grandparents and the loss of his second wife and fellow poet, Jane Kenyon.

"Much of my poetry has been elegiac, even morbid, beginning with laments over New Hampshire farms and extending to the death of my wife," he wrote in the memoir "Packing the Boxes," published in 2008.

In person, he at times resembled a 19th century rustic with his untrimmed beard and ragged hair. And his work reached back to timeless images of his beloved, ancestral New Hampshire home, Eagle Pond Farm, built in 1803 and belonging to his family since the 1860s. He kept country hours for much of his working life, rising at 6 and writing for two hours.

For Hall, the industrialized, commercialized world often seemed an intrusion, like a neon sign along a dirt road. In the tradition of T.S. Eliot and other modernists, he juxtaposed classical and historical references with contemporary slang and brand names. In "Building a House," he begins with the drafters of the U.S. Constitution leaving Philadelphia, then shifts the setting to the 20th century.


Some delegates hitched rides chatting with teamsters

some flew standby and wandered stoned in O'Hare

or borrowed from King Alexander's National Bank.


An opponent of the Vietnam War whose taxes were audited year after year, he was also ruthlessly self-critical. Nakedly, even abjectly, he recorded his failures and shortcomings and disappointments, whether his infidelities or his struggles with alcoholism.

The joy and tragedy of his life were his years with Kenyon, his second wife. They met in 1969, when she was his student at the University of Michigan. By the mid-70s, they were married and living together at Eagle Creek, fellow poets enjoying a fantasy of mind and body — of sex, work and homemaking.

"We sleep, we make love, we plant a tree, we walk up and down/eating lunch," he wrote.

But Kenyon was diagnosed with leukemia and died 18 months later, in 1995, when she was only 47. Even as he found new lovers — and sought them compulsively — Hall never stopped mourning her and arranged to be buried next to her, beneath a headstone inscribed with lines from one of her poems: "I BELIEVE IN THE MIRACLES OF ART, BUT WHAT PRODIGY WILL KEEP YOU BESIDE ME?"

In the 1998 collection "Without," and in many poems after, he reflected on her dying days, on the shock of outliving a woman so many years younger, and the lasting bewilderment of their dog Gus, who years later was still looking for her. In "Rain," he bitterly summarized his efforts to help her.


I never

belittled her sorrows or joshed at her dreads and miseries

How admirable I found myself.


Hall was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1928, but soon favored Eagle Pond to the "blocks of six-room houses" back home. By age 14, he had decided to become a poet, inspired after a conversation with a fellow teen versifier who declared, "It is my profession."

"I had never heard anyone speak so thrilling a sentence," Hall remembered.

He published poetry while a struggling student at Phillips Exeter Academy and formed many lasting literary friendships at Harvard University, including with fellow poets Robert Bly and Adrienne Rich and with George Plimpton, for whom he later served as the first poetry editor at The Paris Review. He also met Daniel Ellsberg and would suspect well before others that the anonymous leaker of the Vietnam War documents known as the Pentagon Papers was his old college friend.

After graduating from Harvard, Hall studied at the University of Oxford and became one of the few Americans to win the Newdigate Prize, a poetry honor founded at Oxford and previously given to Oscar Wilde, John Ruskin and other British writers. He returned to the states in the mid-1950s and taught at several schools, including Stanford University at Bennington College. He was married to Kirby Thompson from 1952-69, and they had two children.

Hall's first literary hero was Edgar Allan Poe and death was an early subject. He completed his debut collection, "Exiles and Marriages," between visits to his ailing father, who died at the end of 1955. In the poem "Snow," Hall confesses, "Like an old man/whatever I touch I turn/to the story of death."

In recent years, as Hall entered the "planet of antiquity," many of his elegies were for himself. He worried that "anthologies dropped him out/Poetry festivals never invited him." He pictured himself awaking "mournful," dressed in black pajamas. He warned that a story with a happy ending had not really ended, but advised that we leave behind a story to tell.

"Work, love, build a house, and die," he wrote. "But build a house."

This story has been corrected to show Hall was 89, not 8.
This story has been corrected to show Charles Laughton's widow was Elsa Lanchester, not Elsa Lancaster.
2018-06-27 00:29:29 UTC
Most of what I posted on his 80th birthday:

Barbara Cooney's illustrations for "Ox-Cart Man" won the 1980
Caldecott Medal.

("Ox-Cart Man" poem)

(biography and fuller bibliography)


(very long interview from 2006)

(Christian Science Monitor article)

(some poems)

(audio links)



Newdigate Prize, Oxford University, 1952, for poem "Exile"; Lamont
Poetry Prize, Academy of American Poets, 1955, for Exiles and
Marriages; Edna St. Vincent Millay Award, Poetry Society of America,
1956; Guggenheim fellowship, 1963-64, 1972-73; New York Times Notable
Children's Books citation, 1979, for Ox-Cart Man; Sarah Josepha Hale
Award, 1983, for writings about New England; Horn Book Honor List,
1986, for The Oxford Book of Children's Verse in America; Lenore
Marshall Prize, 1987, for The Happy Man; National Book Critics Circle
Award for poetry, and Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry, both
1989, both for The One Day; named poet Laureate of New Hampshire,
1984-89, 1995--; Associated Writing Programs Poetry Publication Award
named in Hall's honor; named United States Poet Laureate, 2006.

* Andrew the Lion Farmer, illustrated by Jane Miller, F. Watts (New
York, NY), 1959, illustrated by Ann Reason, Methuen (London, England),

* Riddle Rat, illustrated by Mort Gerberg, Warne (London,
England), 1977.
* Ox-Cart Man, illustrated by Barbara Cooney, Viking (New York,
NY), 1979.
"This beautifully illustrated children’s book recreates the mood of
19th-century rural New England. It begins in October when a farmer &
his family fill it up their ox cart with everything they made or grew
all year long that was left over: a bag of wool, a shaw & mittens,
candles, linen, a broom, potatoes, apples, maple sugar, etc. He walked
the ox & cart until he reached a market, where he sold everything,
including his cart & ox. Then the man bought things that his family
needed, such as an iron kettle, embroidery needle, knife for wood
carving, & wintergreen peppermint candies. The story continues through
the winter & spring as the family makes & grows the same items that
they will again sell to buy things that they need."

* The Man Who Lived Alone, illustrated by Mary Azarian, Godine
(New York, NY), 1984.
"Lyrical prose portrait of man who lived alone in a New England cabin
from childhood to old age."
* (Editor) The Oxford Book of Children's Verse in America, Oxford
University Press, 1985.

* The Farm Summer 1942, illustrated by Barry Moser, Dial (New
York, NY), 1994.
"A young boy spends the summer on his grandparents' farm in New
Hampshire while his morther works in the war effort in New York and
his father serves on a destroyer in the Pacific."
* I Am the Dog, I Am the Cat, illustrated by Barry Moser, Dial
(New York, NY), 1994.
"poet Donald Hall imagines a conversation between a dog and a cat.
Each brags of his own virtures, and evokes the essential dog and cat
qualities that everyone who has known and loved a pet will recognize."
* Lucy's Christmas, illustrated by Michael McCurdy, Harcourt Brace
(New York, NY), 1994.
"In the fall of 1909, Lucy gets an early start on making Christmas
presents for her family and friends, which they will open at the
church's Christmas program. Set in rural New Hampshire."
* Lucy's Summer, illustrated by Michael McCurdy, Harcourt Brace
(New York, NY), 1995.
"For Lucy Wells, who lives on a farm in New Hampshire, the summer of
1910 is filled with helping her mother can fruits & vegetables,
enjoying the Fourth of July celebration, & other activities."
* When Willard Met Babe Ruth, illustrated by Barry Moser, Harcourt
Brace (New York, NY), 1996.
* Old Home Day, illustrated by Emily Arnold McCully, Harcourt
Brace, (New York, NY) 1996.
"Blackwater Pond was a delightful New Hampshire village and over the
years, there were cycles of growth and decline but on it's official
centennial, the state's governor proclaims "Old Home Day" and
encourages people to re-examine their roots."
* The Milkman's Boy, illustrated by Greg Shed, Walker (New York,
NY), 1997.
"Tells the story of the Graves Family Dairy, whose three horses pulled
the wagons delivering milk to families in the years before trucks and
shopping centers replaced them."

2018-06-27 00:39:37 UTC
I think I first heard of him via his story "Riddle Rat" in Cricket Magazine.

You can see "Ox-Cart Man" read aloud here, with the pictures:

(some book covers)

(reader reviews)