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Introduction to Christmas Eve in Whitneyville


Poetry readings: My Son, My Executioner
Donald Hall Poet
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My Son, My Executioner. I was 25 years old when my first son was born - it was out in California - I was on a fellowship for a year to work on poems. And even before he was born, I began to have the notion of this poem, and then I wrote it rather quickly... a matter of weeks, not months.  But actually it had an extra stanza for about 20 years, and so on. All my poems have different periods of execution.

My son, my executioner,

                I take you in my arms,

quiet and small and just astir

                and whom my body warms.


Sweet death, small son,

                our instrument of immortality,

your cries and hungers

                document our bodily decay.


We twenty-five and twenty-two

                who seemed to live forever,

observe enduring life in you

                and start to die together.

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: California, My Son, My Executioner

Duration: 1 minute, 9 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2005

Date story went live: 24 January 2008