Hall to McNair, December 28, 1984

Letter from Hall to McNair, December 28, 1984, Colby College Special Collections

[Click image to view]

28 December 1984

Wesley McNair
Hominy Pot Rd.
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

I am wearing my Poultry shirt, as I sit in the privacy of my down-
stairs study dictating on a winter morning. I love it. So does Jane.
I knew what it came from, the Poultry…

What a year you have had. We have had more or less a lousy one –
except for Philippa’s happy marriage, and of course the wedding was some-
thing else. Christmas has been just too much. John Wain and Brenda have
been here for eight days from England. Andrew was here four days. Jane’s
mother a week, and Philippa and Jerry a couple… Today the last Wain
goes back to England, but Joyce and Jeff arrive to take the cottage over…
We will stay in bed for two days when they leave, then go down and see my
mother… Then I go to New York for a week… Then I go to Ann Arbor for
one day for a reading… and then…I think in February I may be able
to look at a piece of paper again.

I like this new poem very much but something troubles me about the
ending. I do know one thing. You give away the last line in the title
and that is something you should never do. When we come to the last line
it is no surprise. We were waiting for it all along. It is a wonderful
title – but it spoils the last line.

Then I have trouble coming to the last line – I do believe – by itself…
I wonder if it should be “or the Town of No…” I wonder if “or” is right.
I wonder if there might be a line-break between “don’t/Blink…”? I know
that something frays apart at the end.. It isn’t quite solid I think.
And I think that my complaints will be solved by something as small as
one syllable. And for that matter maybe I’m nuts.


Editorial note about this letter: The new poem McNair sent to Hall was “A Traveler’s Advisory,” whose title he changed from “The Town of No” at Hall’s suggestion. Later he used the rejected title “The Town of No” for his second collection of poems.

Read A Traveler’s Advisory (published version from The Town of No)

A second version of “A Traveler’s Advisory,” below, appeared in McNair’s dual volume The Town of No & My Brother Running. He changed line 12 from “a closed garage” to “a closed gas station” for clarity.

Read A Traveler’s Advisory (published version from The Town of No & My Brother Running)

See also a selection of McNair’s manuscript notes and drafts of “A Traveler’s Advisory.”