David Lehman on Donald Hall
Donald Hall is a wonderful choice for US Poet Laureate. I’ve worked closely with him on such projects as “The Best American Poetry 1989,” and in 1994 he asked me to succeed him as general editor of the University of Michigan Press’s “Poets on Poetry” series. So I feel a special kinship with him. But there are many poets and other writers out there who feel a similar bond with Don Hall, for he has always been a generous mentor and an exemplary figure, proving (for example) that an outstanding poet can also do admirable work as an editor, an anthologist, a writer of children’s verse, a sports writer, a writer of short stories and of textbooks. In his versatility and with his energy, Donald Hall has always demonstrated the value of hard work in one’s poetic practice. The title of one of his prose books, “Life Work,” sums up the almost moral imperative that work represents for Hall. Reviewing his book “The One Day” in The Washington Post in 1988, I called it “loud, sweeping, multitudinous, an act of the imperial imagination,” and cited a climactic line suggestive of Hall’s fundamental take on life: “Work, love, build a house and die. But build a house.”
- David Lehman
David Lehman is the editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry, which was published this spring and included The Impossible Marriage and four other poems by Donald Hall.