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Writing a play based on the life of Robert Frost


A job offer from The New Yorker and a profile of Henry Moore
Donald Hall Poet
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I went to New York, and Mr Shawn - Shawn who was the famous Editor of The New Yorker for 30 years or so - he wanted to see me.  And he asked me if I wanted to live in New York. He was about to offer me a desk at The New Yorker - and I... I knew that... he knew I knew it, but I had two little kids and I didn't want to live in Manhattan, so I rejected it out of hand. I'm glad I did, but I wonder what my life would have been like if I'd said yes. That was the occasion, when suddenly, on the spur of the moment, I said, 'How would you like a profile of Henry Moore?' And he said, 'Just a moment...' and he went out of the room.  And he must have looked up in his Rolodex to see if somebody had dibs on Henry Moore. He came back and... and said, 'That would be fine, go right ahead'. So I took on a profile of Henry Moore and it was one of the good things - the best thing - about that second year that I took in Thaxted.  I spent a great deal of the time... of time with Henry Moore. I had a car that year and I could drive over to his wonderful house in Much Hadham surrounded by sculpture and the fields. I spent time with him as he was working - I spent a few hours with him when he was working over waxes before they were cast in bronze, and also when he was working on original maquettes. He was a wonderful man... eloquent, and everything that he said to me about sculpture - and he was happy to talk about it - I always applied to poetry.  And... you know, I've known Robert Frost and TS Eliot, and so on, but I felt I'd learnt more about poetry hanging around Henry Moore than I did from any of the old poets.  And I don't... I don't think that's surprising, I mean... when you're working by analogy to another art, you get newer ideas and so on. But I also liked him. We also travelled around England a great deal to talk to people who had known him. Oh, Sir Kenneth Clark had me down to his castle in Kent so I could interview him about Henry Moore and... so, Barbara, the sculptor, Barbara...

[Q] Hepworth

Hepworth - I saw Barbara Hepworth down in St Ives - and many, many people... probably 25, 30 people - gallery owners, museum directors, other sculptors, young painters and sculptors who didn't like him so much.  One of them said, 'If I see another one of those earth mothers, I'm going to throw up', you know.  And I wanted to hear that too, of course.  But Moore himself was the main thing, and I... I loved doing it. I didn't write it very well, and when I came back and showed a third draft of it to Shawn, The New Yorker rejected it.  But also Shawn talked to me for about an hour about what was wrong with it, not encouraging me to re-write it at all, he made it clear, but what he said was so wonderful that I went outside his office - and there were no chairs - I sat on the... on the carpet in the hallway and took out a piece of paper and wrote down everything I could remember, and I went home and I wrote a new first chapter, and I sent it to him, and he said, 'If the rest of it is like this, it's in', and I was able to write it. It was later a book, and it was a book published in England as well as in United States. Herbert Read wrote a blurb for it in England, to my astonishment, and it did pretty well. It's totally out of date now. It came out in 1966, I guess, in The New Yorker, and Henry lived many more years, and it's been out of print for a long time.  But I loved writing it and I loved hanging around him.

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 York, The New Yorker, Manhattan, Much Hadham, England, Kent, St Ives, United States, Mr Shawn, Henry Moore, Robert Frost, TS Eliot, Sir Kenneth Clark, Barbara Hepworth, Herbert Read

Duration: 4 minutes, 11 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008