Donald Hall (b. 1928) was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He attended Phillips Exeter, Harvard, and Oxford. A friend of George Plimpton, founding editor of the Paris Review, he was the magazine’s first poetry editor (1953–1962), choosing the poems appearing in its pages and conducting interviews with such eminences as Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot. Hall taught at the University of Michigan, where his students included Tom Clark, Lawrence Joseph, Jane Kenyon, and Bob Perelman. After leaving his tenured post to become a full-time freelance writer living on his family farm in New Hampshire, he founded the Poets on Poetry series for the University of Michigan Press and served as its general editor until 1994. He has written criticism, fiction, and sports journalism; edited anthologies of contemporary poetry (including The Best American Poetry 1989); debunked shibboleths (that the “death of poetry” has occurred) and inveighed against the “McPoem,” which is “the product of the workshops of Hamburger University.” Hall’s own poems exhibit great versatility in form and rhetoric. On June 14, 2006, he was named poet laureate by the Library of Congress.
The Impossible Marriage
The bride disappears. After twenty minutes of searching
we discover her in the cellar, vanishing against a pillar
in her white gown and her skin’s original pallor.
When we guide her back to the altar, we find the groom
in his slouch hat, open shirt, and untended beard
withdrawn to the belltower with the healthy young sexton
from whose comradeship we detach him with difficulty.
Oh, never in all the cathedrals and academies
of compulsory Democracy and free-thinking Calvinism
will these poets marry! — O pale, passionate
anchoret of Amherst! O reticent kosmos of Brooklyn!
Selected from the Oxford Book of American Poetry.