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Poetry readings: Without


Poetry readings: Ox-Cart Man
Donald Hall Poet
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Ox-Cart Man.  This is a poem that came from a story that an old New Hampshire farmer told me. And after I had written the poem, I later made it into a children's book - different words, somewhat different characters, but this was the original Ox-Cart Man.

In October of the year,

he counts potatoes, dug from the brown field,

counting the seed, counting

the cellar's portion out,

and bags the rest on the cart's floor.


He packs wool sheared in April, honey

in combs, linen, leather

tanned from deer hide, and vinegar in a barrel

hooped by hand at the forge's fire.


He walks by his ox's head, ten days

to Portsmouth market, and sells potatoes,

and the bag that carried potatoes,

flaxseed, birch brooms, maple syrup, goose

feathers, yarn.


When the cart is empty, he sells the cart.

When the cart is sold, he sells the ox,

harness and yolk, and walks

home, his pockets heavy

with the year's coin for salt and taxes,


and at home by fire's light in November cold

stitches new harness

for next year's ox in the barn,

and carves the yolk, and saws planks

building the cart again.

The 14th US Poet Laureate Donald Hall (1928-2018) was educated at Phillips Exeter Academy, then earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard in 1951 and a BLitt, from Oxford in 1953. He published many essays and anthologies of both poetry and prose including String too Short to be Saved: Recollections of Summers on a New England Farm, White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Without: Poems, and Ox-Cart Man, a children's book which won the Caldecott Medal. Hall was editor of the magazine Oxford Poetry, literary editor of Isis, editor of New Poems, and poetry editor of The Paris Review. He won many awards, including two Guggenheim Fellowships and a Robert Frost Medal. At the end of his first Oxford year, he also won the university's Newdigate Prize, awarded for his poem Exile.

Listeners: Kendel Currier

Kendel Currier started working for Donald Hall in August of 1994 as his correspondence typist. Later she took on his manuscript typing as well, and in October of 1998 moved 100 meters down the road from Donald and became his personal assistant, adding many various new tasks to her work. As well as working for Donald for the last 10 and-a-half years, Donald Hall and Kendel Currier share a set of great (or for Kendel great-great) grandparents, making them distant cousins and part of a similar New Hampshire heritage.

Tags: Ox-Cart Man, New Hampshire, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

Duration: 1 minute, 35 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008