Interview with Poet Laureate and WordTheatre Author, Donald Hall

By Adrian Ernesto Cepeda

A few weeks back I was assigned to write a few questions to Poet Laureate Donald Hall. Being a poet myself, I thought it would be a chance of a lifetime to send Mr. Hall some questions, to wax poetico with someone who I consider a legend in modern verse. How many times does one get to ask a poet laureate questions about the craft?

So I made up my list of questions, it was proofed and approved by everyone here at WordTheatre, and we mailed out a letter to Mr. Hall. A couple weeks went by, and then, one day walking into the office, I saw a letter addressed to me on my desk. The rush of excitement was something I have not felt in years. It had been so long since I’d been awaiting a letter like this, and it made me realize how much of a loss it has been for email to take over writing letters. It made me doubly grateful towards Donald Hall for holding onto such a form, which is what convinced me to personally write to him.

But onto the special Q&A we had through our little correspondence. I must say that as I read the letter, I was amazed at how Mr. Hall’s short responses were so poignant.

  • One of my favorite essays, “The Old Man” by Roger Angell, echoes some of the themes about death in your book Essays After Eighty. Angell says, “Death will get it on with me eventually, and stay much too long, and though I’m in no hurry about the meeting, I feel I know him almost too well by now.” Has your relationship with mortality changed?

I like Roger’s “The Old Man” also. A year or so earlier, I wrote “Out the Window” which the New Yorker published. In “The Old Man” Roger uses some of my images, without knowing it I’m sure. He wrote me when “Out the Window” was printed. HE was my fiction editor there, from 1961.

  • You became Poet Laureate 2006…I was wondering if this had any effect on your writing? Poetry? Prose?

Being a Poet Laureate was no use. I write about it

[in Essays After Eighty].

  • You say “There are no happy endings, because if things are happy they have not ended.” What is your favorite poem and/or prose you’ve written? Coincidentally, are you most proud of your poetry or of your prose?

I cannot pick a favorite poem or prose. Right now I am doing a Selected Poems [collection] which will be out in December. I’ve tried, but maybe I have left out the best. Sometimes I think that Essays After Eighty is my best prose book. Sometimes I think that the first one, String Too Short To Be Saved, is the best—which I finished in 1960.

  • Is a poem ever finished? Can you ruin a poem by too much revision?

Galway Kinnell [the former Poet Laureate for the State of Vermont who passed away in 2014] thought that a poem could be ruined by too much revision. I have not found it so. Lately, I take quite a few revisions to finish my prose. Some of the essays [from After Eighty] took eighty drafts.

  • If you could give this poet some advice…what do you wish a poet had told you?

My advice is to write every day and revise everything eighty to a hundred times.


By |2017-04-11T21:21:47+00:00March 19th, 2015|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , |0 Comments

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