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Donald Hall: The New Poet Laureate of the United States

A Moment At Home With Donald Hall

If a particular setting can act as motivation for a poet’s creative inspiration, “Eagle Pond Farm” certainly does that for Donald Hall. In 1865, Mr. Hall’s great-grandfather, Benjamin Keneston, bought the old farmhouse, which was originally built in 1803. Mr. Hall is pictured above sitting in his office, which is one of the same rooms in which he spent years reading as a child growing up in the old house many years ago.

When Mr. Hall and his wife left their faculty appointments at The University of Michigan and moved back to his Wilmot, New Hampshire, ancestral home, their lives changed completely. They went from being fairly active in university social circles, to leading lives of creative solitude. The old, well-worn house rambles around with rather small pre-electricity sized-rooms, thanks to Mr. Hall’s great-grandfather’s additions, as well as to an addition that Mr. Hall and his late wife made by building a master bedroom and a full bathroom onto the first floor.

Today, the 200-year-old homestead is a collision of old-time New England and pop art: Andy Warhol prints and oversize covers of the Paris Review on the walls, a wood-stove in the living room, and an ancient, horse-drawn sled gathering dust in the barn. He writes in longhand, keeping his works-in-progress in a folder decorated with a kitten.

Hall is the author of numerous volumes of poetry, most recently ”White Apples and the Taste of Stone,” a collection of poems from 1946 to 2006. A memoir, ”The Best Day the Worst Day,” chronicles the marriage to his late wife, poet Jane Kenyon.

I do not understand, or at least cannot account for, the somewhat eccentric “candlestick stuff” in the forefront of the top picture.


To grow old is to lose everything.

Aging, everybody knows it.

Even when we are young,

when a grandfather dies.

Then we row for years on the midsummer

pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,

that began without harm, scatters

into debris on the shore,

and a friend from school drops

cold on a rocky strand.

If a new love carries us

past middle age, our wife will die

at her strongest and most beautiful.

New women come and go. All go.

The pretty lover who announces

that she is temporary

is temporary. The bold woman,

middle-aged against our old age,

sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.

Another friend of decades estranges himself

in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge

and affirm that it is fitting

and delicious to lose everything.

Donald Hall

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