Letters to Donald Hall
In the winter of 2012, Donald Hall, then eighty three years old, could sit back at his rural home, Eagle Pond Farm, in New Hampshire and accurately reflect that he was the most significant contemporary poet in the United States.
He had recently been awarded the National Medal of the Arts by President Barack Obama. He was past Poet Laureate of the United States; a winner, in 1988, of the National Book Critics Circle Award for his masterwork The One Day, which was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He was a two-time Guggenheim Fellow, and winner of the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.
In all, he had authored more than fifty works of verse, children’s books, essays and biography. Much of his later work focused on his relationship with his wife, the distinguished poet Jane Kenyon who died of leukemia in 1995, and whose death was a blow from which he never recovered.
In a life devoted to his craft, Hall had interviewed and formed lasting relationships with four titans of twentieth century poetry: Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound and Robert Frost. These interviews appeared in both The Paris Review (he was the review’s Poetry Editor from 1953 until 1961), and later books.
Hall and I began writing one another in January of 2012. It was a condition of our correspondence that I would not ask for a public endorsement of my work, nor publish our letters in full until after his death. Hall himself never went near a computer. I emailed my letters to his assistant Kendall Currier, who transcribed these into hard copy. Hall then replied by hand or dictation and these were emailed in return.
Read some of my letters to Donald Hall here.