Donald Hall, Poet Laureate

Donald Hall has been named Poet Laureate of the United States, and though Hall is not by any means my favorite poet, I like his personality a lot, and it's always nice to see a neighbor get some recognition.

Because Hall lives down the road from me, I've had the chance to hear him read and lecture quite a few times, and have never failed to be at the very least entertained. Hall's poem "Without" (in the book of the same title) is one of the most viscerally, beautifully sad pieces of writing I've ever encountered. I much prefer his work when he reads it to when it is on the page, because his cigarette-scarred voice is somehow perfect for the lines he writes.

Hall's a good choice for the role of laureate, because his real strength is not so much his own poetry as his support for other poets, and the position is one that's as much about politics as it is about poetry. He's definitely a denizen of the more traditional and (aesthetically) conservative wing of the poetry world, and often passionately so, but he has nonetheless supported quite a wide range of writers. He helped found and continues to guide the Eagle Pond Poetry Series at a local college, a reading series that's often diverse and illuminating.

One of his most lasting contributions to poetry may be his founding of the Poets On Poetry series for the University of Michigan Press. When I was an undergraduate, I devoured all the books in the series that I could find at the library, and learned more about poetry by doing so than through any classes I ever took. Those books gave me a sense of poetry as something people were willing to fight about and live for, and they pointed me in directions I would never have discovered on my own. I hope that in his new position as Poet Laureate, Hall will be able to bring more attention not just to one style of poetry, but to the wide range of poetries being created throughout the country.


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  2. I knew nothing about Mr. Hall when his appointment was announced, so I really appreciate the information you included in your post, Matt.

  3. I agree that Hall is an excellent choice for this post. And I also prefer his writing about poetry (collected in such volumes as Breakfast Served Any Time All Day and The Weather for Poetry) to his poetry (which, however, I certainly prefer to that of some previous poet laureates).


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