Listening to a Great Old Poet

Donald Hall is experiencing old age with considerable grace. He is an 83-year-old American poet who started writing poetry as a teenager; he was appointed U.S. Poet Laureate in 2006; he was awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2010; and he is now living on his family farm in New Hampshire. Mr. Hall spends large chunks of time sitting near a window, from season to season, watching his barn and the surrounding grounds, and his bird feeder with it’s frequent visitors. His balance is growing worse, and he occasionally falls. When he was 80, he had two auto accidents, so he quit driving.

In a new interview, he takes us back through selected parts of his life. He concentrates on remembering what he enjoyed and experienced rather than what is gone and irretrievable. He talks about his grandfather who was a natural story teller, and about how his family property was a working farm with Holsteins.

He talks about his marriage to Jane Kenyon and how Leukemia took her away. He talks about  how sounds and words used to come to him like meteor showers, which he then used to build poems. Over more recent years, those sparks diminished, and now he says he doesn’t get them anymore. He still writes prose, but he thinks that 70 years of writing poetry is perhaps enough. I hear a gentle, perceptive soul, both at ease and a little anxious about late life.

The New Yorker offers a phone interview with Donald Hall that is publicly available. as well as an essay of his on growing old, which is behind their pay wall and in their January 23, 2012 issue.

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