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Poetry readings: The Man in the Dead Machine


Introduction to The Man in the Dead Machine
Donald Hall Poet
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The Man in the Dead Machine.  One time I was at a bad patch in my life. I was driving alone on the New York thruway and I had a sudden visual image. Poems begin for me with words almost always - a phrase or two, something memorable, something that won't go away - but twice that I can think of in my life, probably more often than that, I've had an intense visual image, no words connected with it that was like a waking dream and it has been the start of a poem when I have tried to describe it. I was driving on the thruway feeling depressed and I had this image of a... of an airplane, a World War Two airplane crashed in the jungle with vines growing over it, and then the image zoomed down to the cockpit, where there was a skeleton inside.  And the moment I completed this momentary vision - which didn't block the road, I wasn't hallucinating - I pulled over to the side of the road and wrote a prose description of what I'd seen. It was scary and it took me a year or so before I could begin to work on it, and I've made changes in it since, but for a long time it was my favourite among the poems that I had done.

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, WWII, The Man in the Dead Machine

Duration: 1 minute, 25 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008