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.


Planning what to do next; applying for the Henry Fellowship


Life at Harvard
Donald Hall Poet
Comments (0) Please sign in or register to add comments

We went hitchhiking together - kind of a disastrous hitchhiking trip together - but the friendship endured, and we began to write letters to each other, and I think there's supposed to be something like 20,000 letters - that is 10,000 each, back and forth. He's a great letter writer, and I'm notorious for writing lots and lots of letters.  And in the letters we'd show each other our poems. I've said I'll know if either one of us has ever published anything without showing it to the other first. We don't always approve of course, I mean we don't always agree with what the other says, but we've helped each other a lot, and each of us has words in the poems of the others.  When I went to Oxford and met Dylan Thomas and Vernon Watkins, I discovered that grown-ups did this too... they had lines in each other's work, but I though it was just us. And Bly was my closest friend there, and in all... all in all is my closest friend forever, but there were other remarkable people around at the time.  Adrienne Rich was at Radcliffe in the same class, but because of the politics of the time, she could not be on The Advocate [sic] because she was female, however, we did publish her in The Advocate - we could do that.  And we saw her and talked with her. It was Bly who found her one time at a mixer over at Radcliffe and said he'd met this girl from Baltimore, father's a surgeon, knows all about modern poetry, and I met her later, and in fact we double-dated. Adrienne was my date, and Bob Bly had a Radcliffe friend of hers and we sat in a beer hole and drank beer. A few years ago I met the... Bob Bly's date again for the first time in 50 years, and I said, 'What did we talk about those nights?'  And she told me, she said, 'You and Adrienne and Robert read your poems, or said your poems'.  So she was our audience... very important. She was a very bright, lovely woman. But... anyway the friendship with Adrienne actually ripens later, not then when we were undergraduates, but she was another one... there were so many of us who went on to publish so many books, who all knew each other at that time. Frank O'Hara was not on The Advocate, but he knew everybody who was. John Ashbery was an Advocate editor before me, and so was Kenneth Koch, and, who else? Well later, Louis Begley, the novelist, and Harold Brodkey, the novelist were there. I'm afraid I'm leaving out one of the poets.  But anyway, O'Hara, Ashbery, Bly, Koch, Adrienne Rich and me...

[Q] Was it Ginsberg?

No, he was at Columbia. It was a great gang and we didn't all love each other and we quarreled, but that was fun... the competition was strong. Half of us were veterans of the war... Bly had been in the navy, and so had... had O'Hara. Koch was in the army. Ashbery, and Adrienne and I were too young, and had not been, but those of us who were younger I think learnt by competition with the elders also. We would... when we were accepting poems for the magazine, we took ourselves very seriously... nobody was printed because he was a favorite. We would stay up at Editorial Board meetings, arguing until two, three in the morning about what poems were good enough to print in The Advocate.  And that's very self-important, and I don't regret it for a moment... we were taking it seriously, we were taking poetry seriously. We were arguing taste. We were learning by competing. It was wonderful. And The Advocate was one of those centers of my undergraduate life. I had wonderful classes but I also had tutorial with a couple of very good tutors, but best of all was probably the other students at The Advocate or in the dining hall, where a kind of spirited bull session was constantly going on, and yeah, we'd look for trouble. I remember taking my tray and pushing it up to a table full of musicians... there was a talented organist, there was a flutist who became a musicologist and I put my tray on the table, sat down, and said, 'Music is immoral... is immoral'. And we were off, we were off... it was a wonderful time. There were bad moments... I broke up with my girl from high school, and oh, had a series of dates and adventures... all of which turned out to be disasters. I met there my first wife, whom I married later. I'm not going to talk about that marriage... it ended in divorce after 15 years, but it was there that I found her.  And as I went on to Harvard, things became easier for me. With... when at Exeter, C had been a good grade, but I think I only got one C at Harvard. I found out you don't have to get C's at Harvard, and I was terrifically tunnel vision... I majored in English, and oh, took it easy on myself with the required distribution... you had to take something in science... I took something very easy, and so on. But within English, I took almost entirely poetry... I skipped prose, and I never took a course in music. I never took a course in art, and just a few years later I wrote a book about the sculptor Henry Moore. I did... I began in my last year... year and a half to look at pictures more, to broaden out more, to go to jazz clubs a lot in Boston, and so on, but, it was in general, an enormously happy time. With The Advocate and the dining hall at the center of it really... is great friendships, great conversation, that went on and on.

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: Harvard University, University of Oxford, Radcliffe College, The Harvard Advocate, Baltimore, Columbia University, Phillips Exeter Academy, Boston, Dylan Thomas, Vernon Watkins, Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Louis Begley, Harold Brodkey, Allen Ginsberg, Henry Moore

Duration: 6 minutes, 53 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008