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Poetry readings: My Son, My Executioner


Poetry readings: The Man in the Dead Machine
Donald Hall Poet
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High on a slope in New Guinea

the Grumman Hellcat

lodges among bright vines

as thick as arms. In nineteen-forty-three

the clenched hand of a pilot

glided it here

where no one has ever been.


In the cockpit the helmeted

skeleton sits

upright, held

by dry sinews at neck

and shoulder, and by webbing

that straps the pelvic cross

to the cracked

leather of the seat, and the breastbone

to the canvas cover

of the parachute.


Or say that the shrapnel

missed me, I flew

back to the carrier, and every morning

take the train, my pale

hands on a black case, and sit

upright, held

by the firm webbing.

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 Guinea, The Man in the Dead Machine

Duration: 56 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008