Hall to McNair: April 2, 1982

Letter from Hall to McNair, April 2, 1982

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2 April 1982
Wes McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

These seem to me further along than the Father-Poem, but
I think that maybe they would profit by being kept around for
a while longer. I am taking so long, I am being so “patient”
(if that is really the name of it) that maybe I urge it too much
on others. When I wait, I am glad that I have waited… It is
not only that you change a word… Sometimes you see something
about a poem that is entirely new – like a way for it to mean or
go that you never even saw before. And I am getting up to two
hundred drafts these days! Maybe that’s a bit ridiculous…

I like both of these. “Feet” is a wonderful idea. I have
two kinds of objections, one of which is just little things about
single words, pacings, connections… Then there is the possible
area of implications not exploited enough, or not clear enough…

You will see that I am messing with things on the first page…
I feel that it is ambiguous when we do not have “that” in the
third stanza… I find “are” a boring word, and wonder if some-
thing like “lay” or a more interesting verb might be possible.

Then I find “to stand/ the body/ can take it…” The
transitive “stand” slows me down. Maybe it should… I’m not
sure it should.

But then I am bothered very much by the metaphor of “flight.”
Probably it is “the whole point,” as we say. But the feet have been
very much attached to the earth, and that has been the characteristic
of them, the lowliness of them, the footageness of them, as opposed
to voices that go hundreds of miles through machines… And then
they take it in its “low/mysterious flight…” and I really don’t
know what they’re doing or why it is the feet that would do that.
Although we can use the word “flight” meaning fast movement, it
surely means up in the air also, whatever we want. This seems
a low orbit…but why? How? And isn’t “maybe” “mysterious” a

Then with My Brother. I don’t understand the concept of
“taken/ into the doors.” Inside doors? Into the room which is
behind the doors? Banging against the doors, breaking your nose?
I think that it ends very well. I think that it is almost all here.
That image is disturbing to me though, because of its physical
confusion. Physical confusions perhaps in both poems.

Love as ever,

Editorial note about this letter: Though McNair’s first drafts of “The Longing of the Feet” and “My Brother in the Revolving Doors” as sent on this date have been lost, the changes he made to those poems following Hall’s critique were small; in fact, his second drafts of these poems are nearly the same as the first. To find them and continue with the discussion, skip the next notes detailing McNair’s new acceptance from The Atlantic Monthly, and go to the series of three letters starting on May 27.