A Carnival of Losses:  Notes on Nearing Ninety, Donald Hall 2018

Hall, a much awarded and beloved poet, essayist, short story writer, and children’s book author, died last month at the age of 90.  I had met him in 1970 when I invited him, a Professor of English at the University of Michigan to speak to our annual Medical School Honor Society dinner.  A poet was out of the mainstream for such an event, but he was great and we began a correspondence that  lasted nearly 50 years.  Meeting briefly at readings from the Berkshires to Boston, from Vermont to Cambridge, we primarily stayed in touch via hand written letters about our reading, poets, the Red Sox, our families and careers.  He was a funny and sensitive pen pal.  He was also an incredibly talented writer drawing upon his experience as a professor, a free lance writer living in the New Hampshire home which his great-grandfather bought in 1865, and upon his unusually loving and passionate marriage to the poet, Jane Kenyon who died much too young at 47, twenty years before Hall.  The essays in this latest and last book vary from a one paragraph remembrance of a curmudgeonly e.e. cummings to musings about aging and its frailty, Jane, New Hampshire ancestors, poets he had known, and poems about death.  At times it made me laugh, at others, weep.  It truly felt like sitting with him in his Wilmot, NH 200+ year old farmhouse surrounded by ghosts and memories.  His String Too Short to Be Saved, Ox Cart Man, The Man Who Lived Alone, and Kicking the Leaves will always be among my favorites.  Good by and good rest, my good friend.