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Starting to publish and a fellowship at Stanford


My second year at Oxford
Donald Hall Poet
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I came back home and got married - my first marriage - and then lived out on Banbury Road in digs with my wife, as a second year, when I began taking notes. I wrote a thesis... I wanted to write about prosody. Eventually I intended to write about the prosody of modern poetry. I never did, but I wanted to do background to it, and so I had a supervisor called Catharine Inge, who was the only Don at Oxford in English who was interested in prosody, and we arrived at a... something I could handle, which was to write about 18th century prosodists in England, and there were about 10 of them that I wrote about, including a wonderful musical prosodist - I think he's wrong - but incredibly original, named Joshua Steele.  And I worked at the Duke Humfrey's Library at the Bodleian... the oldest part of the Bodleian. You'd come there and order books and it would take them about two hours to deliver them, and so you went and drank tea for a while, and came back.  Or I went down sometimes - Bodleian didn't have all the books - to The British Museum, and worked in that circular reading room, which was great fun.  But I wrote it and we didn't... didn't go abroad that... yes, we did that Christmas time. That Christmas time, we drove across the Channel to France, to Austria, and then out through the Russian sector into Yugoslavia. We were going to Greece... we drove to Greece, and in Yugoslavia there were no real viable roads. We had to forge streams in our Morris Minor, and it was astonishing - we got stuck a couple of times. People who happened to be working in the fields, and they lifted it up - it was a very light car - and carried it, and so on. And then we drove down the length of Greece to Athens, and coming back, I put it on a boat at Piraeus, and took it over to Brindisi. I didn't want to drive back. When we arrived in Skopje in Southern Yugoslavia, we went to the travel bureau which we had to go to, and they said, 'Yes, and you came from Dubrovnik', and I said, 'No, we drove down from Niš', and they said, 'No, that's impassable'. I said, 'Yes but nobody told us!' We drove down from Niš, and it was a wonderful trip, and I wrote about that too of course, and came back and finally got down to work on my thesis, and got it done, and graduated.

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: University of Oxford, Banbury Road, Duke Humfrey's Library, Bodleian Library, British Museum, English Channel, France, Austria, Yugoslavia, Greece, Athens, Piraeus, Brindisi, Skopje, Dubrovnik, Niš, Catharine Inge, Joshua Steele

Duration: 3 minutes

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008