Thursday, September 20, 2007

Happy Birthday Donald Hall!

I think that I have now read everything that he has written.

Poem: "The judge was decent, but..." by Donald Hall, from The Old Life. © Houghton Mifflin Company, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

The judge was decent, but...

     The judge was decent, but

judge's chambers were judge's chambers,

     yellow and municipal

in downtown Ann Arbor. My kids

     were dear and anxious.

Jane's brother and sister-in-law, mother,

     and father stood up

with us for the rapid legality

     we followed with lobster

and champagne at the Gandy Dancer.

     Depressed the next

morning, I knew it was a mistake. I was

     wrong. We remarried

five years later in New Hampshire, joyful

     in a wooden church,

     a Saturday afternoon in April,

     only Jack Jensen our

     friend and minister with us, saying

the prayer book's words

among lilies and wine in holy shadow.


     It didn't matter that

I had toasted the Queen at Oxford

     while Jane crayoned

into her Coronation Coloring Book.

     Married in the spring,

we flew to London in September, ate

     pub lunches, visited

friends in Cambridge, and found a Maltese

     restaurant in Kensington.

We learned how to love each other

     by loving together

good things wholly outside each other.

     We took the advice of my

dear depressed and heartsick Aunt Liz,

     who wrote us at our flat

in Bloomsbury: "Have fun while you can."

Literary and Historical Notes:
It's the birthday of the poet Donald Hall, (books by this author) born in New Haven, Connecticut (1928) who spent summers on his grandfather's farm in New Hampshire, listening to his grandfather recite poems like "Casey at the Bat" as he milked his Holsteins. Hall moved back to that farm in 1975 with his wife, Jane Kenyon, and they lived there for 20 years until her death from leukemia. His book Without (1998) is about taking care of his wife, and the second part about living without her.
His collection White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946–2006 came out last year.
Donald Hall said, "I try every day to write great poetry — as I tried when I was 14. ... What else is there to do?"

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