Hall to McNair: July 28, 1980


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28 July 1980

Wes McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

It is when Superman Died that I need. Thank you and

Davison saw quite a few poems that Joey sent him,
and he rejected them. As it happens, he did not see the
three that you mentioned: Old Trees, The Fat Enter Heaven,
and Here on Television [sic]. (He would not like the last. But
he might like the first two.)

But they are at the moment out at another magazine.

I will send them to him when they come back, if they
come back. Earlier, although they were addressed to him –
and although Davison has bought poems by other of Joey’s
clients – the poems were rejected by Mary Jo Salter, who
reads for him, and therefore I am not even certain that he
reads them. But he may have done.
[Written in margin: Almost certain – or they would have had slips.]

Anyway, I will send those to him when they come back –
but I think it ought to be Joey who does the sending. I think
you ought to be consistent, or we ought to be – I don’t think
that some poems should come directly from you and others from
Joey Amaryllis.

I think that Calling Harold is finished, perfect, and

I think that The Fat People of the Old Days is a wonderful
idea, and ought to be terrific – but I think that it is
awkward and unfinished, and I think it would be a real mistake
to send it out now. That is, I think it will be better a
few months from now.

I don’t really believe in epigraphs very much. This
is a funny saying, but then it appears to be the saying of
the author’s child, and therefore he is saying “Look at what
a cute child I’ve got!” Often they are appeals to authority.
Sometimes they give off an appearance of diffidence. I really
don’t like this one, even though I like the line itself of
course. I don’t think it has much to do with the poem.

Then I think that the language of the poem is slack
here and there, but that the center of it is just pure gold.
I think that “driving some mad.” can be better, because
after all this is a cliche, to be driven mad, and nothing
imaginative about it. I love the notion of knuckles and
elbows sinking into dimples, but then I’m bewildered by the
prepositional clause that follows. It is obvious that it is


dimples of fat. But then you say “of the fat.” And I am
lost. In fact, that generic “the fat,” detaching the phenomenon
from people, seems to me probably a mistake. I like the man.
I like the responsibility. I like the fathers folding it
in their pants – but I don’t like “through the cold which/
always was.” The expressions seems to me kind of glib there
and I realize it is a reference to the epigraph. But I don’t
need either. But There is nothing wrong with mentioning the
cold: I just think that this way of mentioning it seems
as if it intended to be clever.

I love the wide doors and the passing the potatoes!
But I don’t’ like the “long/vowels of wind…” because there
are no calories in vowels at all – unless you put them there.
I mean, if it were the “buttery/vowels…”…or something.
But “the long/ vowels of wind” just sounds poetical, kind
of a puff of poetical smoke. Then I don’t think it really
ends as well as it might. Partly I think this is the syntax.
The poem ends with two simple declarative sentences, short
lines, brief sentences… It seems kind of staccato or tight-
lipped, here at the end. I think it ought to get better!

And I do, indeed, think it is yet one more marvelous
poem – almost.

Love as ever,


McNair’s note about this letter: The early version my poem “The Fat People of the Old Days,” whose initial draft has been lost, had an epigraph linking the title to my daughter’s question as a young child: “Were there fat people in the old days?” — the epigraph Hall refers to in his discussion here. I continued to come back to the poem during the spring and fall of the ensuing year, sending Don another draft, not quite complete, on October 8, 1981.Yet the poem’s published version, which appears in the footnote of the next letter, shows that I eventually retained the parts he liked and replaced those he questioned, including the epigraph, despite my initial reluctance.