Hall to McNair: May 18, 1981


[Click image to view]

18 May 1981

Wes McNair
Box 43
N. Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

Very good to get your letter. And it came at a time
when I was on the road almost continually, so you find me
unusually slow in replying. Last weekend we flew south,
Jane to Virginia to the Orrs, and me down to Clinton, South
Carolina, where I gave the graduation speech and got an
honorary degree at a little place called Presbyterian College
in Clinton, a nice little place where I have read my poems a
couple of times. After the graduation, a young poet named John
Lane drove me seven hours to Charlottesville. And the next
morning I tied up with Jane and the Orrs. We worked on poems
for a day and a half, and then flew back here. Tuesday night
I saw the Celtics beat Houston, Wednesday morning answered
some mail, Wednesday noon did a reading in East Andover that
I had agreed to do fourteen months ago, and after that I flew
to New York. Ihad (sic) dinner with Andrew that night, and the next
morning addressed the Oxford University Press’s sales force,
whipping up enthusiasm for the Oxford Book of American Literary
Anecdotes. After that I flew back to Boston, drove out to Exeter
and did a reading! Then I had to hang around there for a couple
of days to talk with students. Just got back up here Saturday
night, and I have to go off again Tuesday night, and all day
Wednesday – but after that I get to stick around for a while,
thank heaven.

I hope that the financial situation begins to steady-out
now. Sorry to hear that Diane has had to go through an operation.
That is always a lot of fun. Good for Diane with the months
at Haystack – which I hope will work out all right. I mean to say,
that she will feel well enough to go.

You say that news on the book is all bad, and of course
I know what you mean – but being a finalist in all these things…
being a bridesmaid, in this case, is a sign that you will be a
bride. I know it is small comfort to hear these things – but I
still think Iought (sic) to tell you the truth!

I think the title is good. I think you should probably
continue to change it to make the best book possible, if you
can determine what that is. When I was sending my first book
around, I changed it every single time, between rejections,
so in a sense the same book was not rejected thirteen times,
which I always say. You are older and the book is better – but
still I think that you lose nothing by dropping some poems you feel
less confident about. Ten years from now, if you continue to like
them, you can publish them at that time. A poem is not destroyed,
simply by being left out. And if you make a better book – or even


merely a more fashionable book – I think that the bird in
hand is worth cooking.

I feel that I am about to be able to get into a good
patch of working on poems. Usually if I feel that way it
happens. I need one. I have not sent out a poem for three
years. The house is full of almosts. But I am not sure that
any of the almosts is as good as the four or five best poems
in Kicking the Leaves. Well, who am I to say anyway?

I knew that Wally had had bad luck with his nightclub.
I did not know about the golf course. I’m delighted to hear
about the honors for Carl, who is a wonderful teacher, who
sometimes I think wants to convince us that he is not. You
have always been around him and seeing him at work, but for
me the exposure has been briefer. But perfectly clear. I hope
Carl enjoys retirement. I think it is a little frightening
for him, although he also looks forward to it. Nothing like
that is ever unconflicted!

Thank you for writing, and good luck to us all! I
mean in our work especially…but why not everything else?