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Discussing mine and Jane's various poems


The One Day
Donald Hall Poet
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Way back, in the early '70s, when Jane and I were first married, I had had this onslaught of lines of... of poems which I thought of as being the start of a book length poem.  And gradually here over the years I began to work on that. It was hard for me to look at it... a lot of the material was very painful in the original generation, and then I began to see how to put parts of it together. It... the book that eventually... eventually I wrote is in three parts, and the first part uses most of that material that... that came up when I was driving the car and pulling over to the side of the road in Ann Arbor.  And at some point - I can't tell exactly when, it might have been 1980, 1982 - I had made that material into something like 30 sections of three pages each.  And I worked on it hard, and one afternoon I read it all to Jane, and when I finished reading it, I felt an overwhelming sense of shame.  Partly the material was shameful, but it was also that I knew it wasn't going... it wasn't working. I took it back, I couldn't look at it for six months, and then I went back to work on it, and I finished essentially the first part, and published it in The Happy Man, because at that time I didn't think I'd ever finish it. I had a vision of something much longer, but then came the operation and the access of energy, and I was able to write the whole book. I came up on schemes for the different parts - the three parts which were in balance. The... the book is modernist in its construction, in the sense that I think there is a lot of Ulysses... it's obviously not noticeable... Ulysses in it, and The Waste Land has it's structure essentially based on the modernism of Joyce and I grew up with Eliot and Joyce and so on.  So I think that The One Day - the eventual name of the book - is a book in that tradition, a very late version of it obviously, that came out in, well I guess, maybe 1988, I'm not sure about my dates right now.  But it won a bunch of prizes and a lot of people - it has probably sold less than any book of mine - it's difficult... it's a single, more or less sustained, book length poem, but it's... it continues to be praised and to be written about, and called my... my best work - certainly the most ambitious. I don't really know, of course, that it's the best. But that was a major work taking from the beginning to the end, it was about 17 years, but of course I didn't work on it all the time - I put it away - scared to look at it some of the time, but I'm so pleased with it - that one.

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: Ann Arbor, Ulysses, The Waste Land, The One Day, Jane Kenyon, James Joyce, TS Eliot

Duration: 3 minutes, 15 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008