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Monday, January 23, 2012

Donald Hall - in poetry for the long haul

"I started my first poem 70 years ago," [Donald Hall] said. "It's been a way of life and how I would handle anything that came up, sad or happy."

In a wheelchair with a full time carer, Donald Hall is now aged 83 - a fair enough innings, but a time in life when the "meteor showers" of inspiration have stopped rushing in. He still writes prose and if a poem came he states he wouldn't "send it away". 

In a full lifetime, Hall has had his luck, good and bad, but as a poet he has been awarded a staggering amount of awards and prizes. Last year, along with Bob Dylan and Clint Eastwood, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama, the highest recognition the US bestows upon its creative citizens.

In describing Hall's memoir, Out The Window, the Enterprise News reports this delightful scene:

In the middle, there's a gem about how our society tends to view and treat old people. Hall, 83, recently traveled to Washington to receive the National Medal of the Arts. He also visited the National Gallery of Art and was in a wheelchair. He stopped to look at a sculpture.
A guard in his 60s came up and, apparently assuming that someone older in a wheelchair wouldn't know this, the guard tells him that the name of the sculptor is Henry Moore. 
Hall wrote a book about Moore and also knew him, but he refrains from putting down the guard.
Then later, as Hall is coming out of the cafeteria with his companion, the same guard comes over again, bends down, and "wags his finger, smiles a grotesque smile, and raises his voice to ask, "Did we have a nice din-din?"

As I grow older, I am surprised at the 'meteor showers' that still come - not daily but with purpose - and I am pleased to report that, on average, more poems survive after first draft than when I was young and would sprinkle poems on the floor like confetti. Well, I called anything that came out on paper 'poems' back then! Ten a day wasn't unheard of, whereas today ... 

Getting back to Hall, I'll look up his poems again now and read a few, just to celebrate an older poet who deserves some attention while he still walks this earth. Perhaps you'll do the same for me - not now! Much later ...

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