a story lives forever
Sign in
Form submission failed!

Stay signed in

Recover your password?
Form submission failed!

Web of Stories Ltd would like to keep you informed about our products and services.

Please tick here if you would like us to keep you informed about our products and services.

I have read and accepted the Terms & Conditions.

Please note: Your email and any private information provided at registration will not be passed on to other individuals or organisations without your specific approval.

Video URL

You must be registered to use this feature. Sign in or register.


Harvard University


Suffering from migraines and my last year at Exeter
Donald Hall Poet
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

I was at Exeter for two academic years, but I took three years to do it. I didn't flunk, finally, but in my second year I took sick... I was very, very unhappy there. By this time, I was not so frightened of flunking out, but socially it was just awful, and I had no friends and felt very solitary, and of course I do realize I provoked the... my isolation, and cherished it, but I was unhappy.  And in January, perhaps, I began to have a migraine headache every day. I'd begun to have migraines a little in the fall, and then I had some pain in my head, sometimes all day, sometimes for 10 minutes, every day, and it was accompanied by a low grade fever, and that was in the infirmary for weeks and then the school asked my parents to come up and take me home.  So they did, and I was restored to my mother.  And she went down to the Yale Co-op and bought me books and I wrote a novel while I was in bed - it was wonderful. I did spend a week in New Haven hospital for observation - they tested me for brain tumors, and, oh, glandular problems, and so on. I think it was psychosomatic probably... depression, desire to get away... desire to be restored to the mother. She... she was a great nurse, took great care of me. But at any rate, at the end of the... when they couldn't find anything wrong with me, somebody finally said, throw... throw the thermometer away, and gradually the headaches stopped, and when I finally took my temperature again it was normal, and I went back the following year. But I did write a novel that year when I was 17. I remember, now I think it still exists somewhere, but it will be a terrible day if it ever gets printed. It was terrible, and I wrote another one when I was 19 actually, which was probably worse. And at that point, by the time I was 19, I decided, well, no prose for me. I'm no good at it. It'll be just poetry. But... I went back to Exeter for my senior year, and there were a lot of veterans there - there were 12 or 14 guys who had been in the army, the navy, the marine corps, who needed a postgrad year before college, and they changed the sense of the place for me. Two of them became the people I saw most often, and they were more grown up, and not - so much of Exeter came from... they were boys from prominent families in the Midwest, but an awful lot of Episcopal day school kids from New York, and... who came from rich families and so on, and it was just totally alien to my background.  And they all had brothers and sisters, I was the only child.  But when the veterans came back, I hung around with a couple of them, one of them is still my friend by correspondence, and that made the last year a lot easier, and it kind of changed the tone of the place as a whole. The sort of leaders before were in the presence of these people who had been firing guns in the Pacific 12 or 13 months earlier, and it sort of chastened them, I think. And I got into Harvard, and everybody got into Harvard from Exeter at that time. Not everybody, but an enormous number of people. It's hard now, but I got to Harvard and there I... I feel that I came home to my generation for the first time in my life.

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: Phillips Exeter Academy, Yale Co-op, New Haven, New York, Harvard University

Duration: 4 minutes, 4 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008