By Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
My first week as a Field Study volunteer/intern was highlighted when Cedering Fox shared a letter from a friend of WordTheatre®, former poet laureate Donald Hall. Seeing a note from this literary genius reminded me of the times I would go research at The University of Texas at Austin Henry Ransom center. I recall holding a working script of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman with the playwright’s own handwritten notes on the margins. I recall reading diary entries from On the Road writer Jack Kerouac. But holding a letter from Mr. Hall was like reading a modern day artifact that will one day end up at the kind of famous literary archive as the Harry Ransom Center in Austin.
Seeing this personal note from this incredible writer—who’s published over 22 volumes of verse and 50 novels from all genres with his latest book, Essays After Eighty, receiving such critical acclaim that it’s in its second printing—is a revelation. With the disconnected and impersonal form of communication by email, it’s a joy to see an author like Donald Hall continues the lost art of letter writing in such an eloquent and honest way. With apologies to Mr. Hall, what I can share from this letter is that because of his age of eighty-six this legend takes two naps a day. And Hall actually penned this note before the second one.
There’s wit, love and joy in every line of this letter that mirrors the exquisite writing of his new book Essays After Eighty. Seeing the tone of this letter and how effortlessly it matches with that of his essays, you can tell why Donald Hall was nominated The Library of Congress’s 14th Poet Laureate in 2006.
“New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures” is what Hall wrote in his moving essay “Out The Window.” Thankfully as long we have prose from volumes like Essays After Eighty, we will continue returning back to the literary voice of this living American legend. I am honored and feel so lucky that Cedering shared this letter with me. Just like his stellar poems, stories and essays, Donald Hall’s note will forever be engraved in my mind that I won’t soon forget.