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Poetry Editor at The Paris Review


Editing New Poets of England and America
Donald Hall Poet
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In my third year of three years at the Society of Fellows, I had to look for a job. Here I had been on six years of fellowships in a row with nothing to do, and it was of course insulting that I had to do something to get... to get a salary, but I knew it would be in teaching, and I knew by that point that I did not have to go to graduate school. I could do it because of my book.  And there had been another book just after the book of poems... I edited an anthology, called the New Poets of England and America. Because I'd just come from Oxford, I knew everybody in England very well, and it was... I was necessary for the... for that portion of the book. It was... the book started when one poet had an idea, and sold it to a publisher, and then brought in a second poet, and then the second poet brought in me... I was the third one coming in. It was Robert Pack, Louis Simpson, and me, who were doing this, and we met from time to time, we read everything, we found things and gave them to the others to read, and then we would vote, unanimous sometimes, sometimes two out of three.  And it came out in '57, and it did not have a single... a single Beat Poet in it, so it always became known as the academic anthology - the anthology of the academic poets.  And the subsequent volume by Donald Allen was the Beat anthology.  And when we were... we weren't reading and rejecting the Beat Poets - we didn't know about them - and it's true that there was for a while, the battle of the anthologies - it's been called that - the battle of the anthologies, where people would take sides and, you know, all the stuffy people would defend us, and all the more interesting people would defend the Beat Poets, and so on. It was very annoying, but we had not read any of the work of Allen Ginsberg or Gregory Corso, and so on, and if we had read it, we probably would have disliked it, I should say. It attacked our citadel. We were metrical. We were following in the... free verse modern poetry was free verse... but then in the late '20s and '30s with John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, WH Auden, poetry was swinging back into metrical forms again, and there was some of it which was very good and very beautiful, and we were picking that up.  Very few of us were writing free verse - that's not the only difference obviously between these schools, but we printed... oh, we printed Thom Gunn and Ted Hughes, and Philip Larkin, and Geoffrey Hill, and many others from England, and we printed very many good American poets - the best. It was at the time that WD Snodgrass really first came to attention, because it was before the publication of Heart's Needle, and it... it helped a lot of poets get going, and it was good.  But there were many bad poets in the volume who looked good to us at the time, and that will always happen with any contemporary anthology. It was great fun to do, and I enjoyed the process of editing and promoting the people who I thought were good. I had already been doing it, earlier, by editing for The Paris Review.

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: New Poets of England and America, University of Oxford, England, American, Heart's Needle, The Paris Review, Robert Pack, Louis Simpson, Donald Allen, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, John Crowe Ransom, Allen Tate, WH Auden, Thom Gunn, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Geoffrey Hill, WD Snodgrass

Duration: 3 minutes, 45 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008