Except for Love: New England Poets Inspired by Donald Hall, ed. Cynthia Brackett-Vincent 2019
The title of this collection comes from a line from Hall’s book, “Eagle Pond” in which he says “There’s no reason to live here except for love”. The here is the farmhouse in Wilmot, NH bought by his great-grandfather in 1865 where Hall and his young wife, Jane Kenyon moved in the mid-70’s to start a new life of poetry and free lance writing in his family home. the fourth generation to live on Eagle Pond. Hall, a former U.S. Poet Laureate and the author of dozens of books of poetry, fiction, essays, and children’s literature, was my inspiration for my love of poetry and a nearly 50 year pen pal, dating from an evening in Ann Arbor when he was my guest as the speaker at our annual Medical School Honor Society dinner. He was famous for quickly writing back to the hundreds of people who corresponded with him, and I have a stack of his letters filled with comments about his beloved Red Sox, favorite poets, and life in NH. Always gracious and always incisive, he and his work will be sorely missed by me as well as many others as evidenced by the 35 New England poets whose work comprises this volume. Many of the poems are dedicated to Hall and many have wonderful epigraphs, e.g. “Old age is a ceremony of losses” (Hall); “the outline of absence defined a presence that disappeared” (Hall); “Every poem is a momentary stay against the confusion of the world” (Frost). Many of these poems are worth quoting in detail. They deal with time, aging, death, winter and its frigid beauty, spring and its rebirth, gardens and New England farmers—all topics dear to Hall. Here’s one I particularly liked: First Acts by L. R. Berger: “Filling the teapot at the tap,/turning on the burner—-/praise be for the day’s first acts/requiring no imagination,/no choices of consequence./You can be half asleep/and already a success at life,/draw encouragement/mastering the rituals of morning—-/parting the curtains, reuniting/with your eyeglasses./The looming hurdles of the day/begin to loom possible,/the heavy head of the earth/will not today spin off/on its orbit without you./The water boils and you know/what to do, your cold feet/anchored again/to the map of the world.” This is a fine collection dedicated to a wonderful poet, teacher, and human being. I miss my pen pal.