Saturday, June 17, 2006

New U.S. Poet Laureate: Donald Hall

New England poetry fans rejoiced with this June’s announcement that New Hampshire poet Donald Hall will be the next U.S. Poet Laureate. But we weren’t surprised. The 77-year-old poet just issued a “selected works” volume, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, that draws from fifty years of published work, 1946 to 2006. Warmly reviewed upon publication by another storytelling poet, Billy Collins, the collection gives perspective to a lifetime of writing, at a critical moment.
In May, presenting the collection to fans at the Eagle Pond Series at Plymouth State University (Eagle Pond is at his farm), Hall acknowledged other roots to his writing, roots that deepen it beyond a simple response to a landscape and heritage. “Two things I always want to pitch,” he confided, “one of which is reading the older poets – no, I don’t mean me, I mean older than that!” And he plunged into admiration of 17th-century poets like Andrew Marvell as well as Thomas Hardy.
“The other thing that I always take very occasion to talk about is revision,” he continued. He keeps poems “close to the chest” for months before allowing other people to see them. And he often goes to a hundred drafts, although some endure “only fifty.” He explained, “They take a long time, and I think they need to for many people.”
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