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Poetry readings: White Apples


Working habits and growing old
Donald Hall Poet
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I'm able now to... to work. I worked very hard for 17 months in a row on a book that is about to come out as I speak, which is a prose book about Jane, our marriage and her death. I think virtually the last time I will write about her... she will doubtless turn up in poems, but I think I'm through it finally. I gave myself to this prose, and I think it's a good book... I worked on it very hard and with great, oh, enthusiasm, excitement. At some point, early in the composition of it, I realized I had the structure and the tone - I knew I could do it - and then it was just a matter of re-writing, and re-writing endlessly so that every page had 25 versions or something... just a prose book.  But it... during that time I stopped writing poems. Almost all my life I had worked on poems and children's books and articles and book reviews, you know, all in the same day, but at this point I was just tinkering with some old poems that I was trying to improve... I got out of the habit.  And when that book was finished I started very few poems for a year or so, and just lately, some poems have been beginning. I'm working on a Selected Poems now and still tinkering with... with old ones, trying to improve them, but I've also... beginning new poems... some which may finish in time to be in a new Selected Poems, maybe some not. I'm also working on other prose. I do not work nearly so many hours a day as I did when I was younger, and when Jane was alive. When we went freelance and I came here, I worked all the time, obviously, and published four books a year, and six books a year, and I said... thought... first thought was... I'm doing this to support us, so that we can live here together, and Jane can write too.  And then my second thought was... don't be silly, it's just an excuse, you just want to write all day long, you like it. And after Jane's death, I stopped writing so much. I no longer write children's books... I've tried but they just don't happen, and I've stopped writing most of my magazine writing, so maybe I was right the first time.  But it's also true of course that I'm 76 years old now and, oh, when I stand up from a chair, I know it, and when I walk any further than the mailbox, my leg hurts, and so on. I'm an old man, told that... and probably a decrease in energy there.  But I continue to write - old poets never stop, they just get worse and worse. I know that, but I'm trying to not get worse and worse, but I am writing less and less, well... it goes up and down a bit... but I‘m... I'm not writing in great quantity now, and I don't expect to.  But then it was just... just two years ago I was working so day and night on the book that is about to come out, The Best Day, The Worst Day - the prose book about Jane - so maybe something like that will take me over again. I can hope so.

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: Selected Poems, The Best Day, The Worst Day, Jane Kenyon

Duration: 3 minutes, 29 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008