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Helping out with each other's poetry

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The life of a freelancer
Donald Hall Poet
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The economics of freelancing is fascinating. I calculated at some point, that at the end of the year, that I had made my living by 300 cheques, and - but these are small checks, almost all of them, are small checks - and if you have 300 bosses you don't have any bosses.  And I loved the independence, and I would get up in the morning knowing I was going to work on poems first thing, but not knowing much else. And I wouldn't know what poems I was going to work on... I'd work on what felt like... I felt like working on in the morning. And then I might go to a children's book or do an essay for the Times Literary Supplement, or an essay for Yankee Magazine, or Ford Times, or something.  It was really exciting, and I also felt like a pirate... I felt I was... I was getting away with something by making a living as a freelancer. I think my... my new Connecticut family were all businessmen, and I may have inherited business genes because I think I handled it well, but I was very lucky with a couple of things. The book that was selling when we came here, that allowed us to take that year off, was a freshman English textbook, and I had begun that when I was first separated because my salary from the university was not so much as I owed in child support - I was behind every month - so I took a... an advance to write the freshman English textbook, and then got really interested in it and it did very well for a number of years.  It's past its time now. It was called, Writing Well, and then later I did all sorts of books... The Oxford Book of American Literary Anecdotes, that was great fun to do and so on. I did more textbooks, I did 12 children's books all told, one called Ox-Cart Man won the Caldecott Prize as the best picture book... Barbara Cooney illustrated it and she did a beautiful job, and it won that prize and it still sells a great deal. The Japanese translation sells many copies every year - still - and it's... it came out about 1980 or something, but... the American book used to sell all the time too. So I put it together all sorts of ways.  At the same time I was giving my most energetic moments to writing poetry, and Jane was putting everything into writing poetry and getting better and better, and the stimulus of her getting better and better was - if this was competitive, so be it - it made me want to get better and better too.  It was just wonderful.

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: Times Literary Supplement, Yankee Magazine, Ford Times, Connecticut, English, Writing Well, The Oxford Book of American Literary Anecdotes, Ox-Cart Man, Caldecott Prize, Japanese, Barbara Cooney, Jane Kenyon

Duration: 2 minutes, 57 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008