Hall to McNair: July 8, 1983

Letter from Hall to McNair, July 8, 1983, Colby College Special Collections

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8 July 1983

Wes McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH

Dear Wes,

Thanks for the poem. I don’t like this one so much, and
I cannot tell how much of it is the poem, and how much of it is
my incomprehension… I am not sure. I think that the faith
healer is speaking. But at the end, is it that he falls down
and holds onto the boy’s wheelchair, or do we learn that he is
in a wheelchair himself? I am troubled by the dialect, or what-
ever we call it when the writer does a spoken grammar. It
doesn’t sound real to me – but I don’t mean to say that it is
not real, not even like a transcription. I find it unconvincing.
Joey will be happy to send it out anyway. But it is not one
of my favorites, or not yet at any rate. I suppose I’m not
quite sure how the father did it, when the boy remains only
a chest, no limbs at all apparently. And I guess the whole
thing doesn’t especially add up to me. Sorry about that.

In general I save things until the New Yorker opens up,
as you know.

Love as ever,


Editorial note about this letter: The poem Hall comments on is “The Faith Healer,” which McNair sent to him in his previous letter. (Eventually Hall changed his mind and liked the poem.)

Dispensing with the occasional dialect Hall mentions in this letter, McNair decided to keep the rest of “The Faith Healer” as he had it despite Hall’s objections, sending to Wilmot his new draft on 9/25/1983. This became the published version, appearing in Poetry magazine and receiving, together with “The Portuguese Dictionary” and “Remembering Aprons,” Poetry’s Eunice Tietjens prize for 1984. See the final paragraph of Hall’s letter on 10/7/1983, where he questions his criticism of the poem.

Read The Faith Healer (published version)