Hall to McNair: March 13, 1984

Letter from Hall to McNair, March 13, 1984, Page 1, Colby College Special Collections

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13 March 1984
Wes McNair
Sutton, NH 03260

[Written in margin]: He called this
afternoon + left a
message on the

Dear Wes,

Thanks so much for your help last Friday night. What a nit!
What a bunch of nits… Really, the postponement is a great help
to me – and so I should not be annoyed. I am annoyed, but that is
partly my own compulsiveness, my own aggressive thoughtfulness, whereby,
frequently, if I know it is going to take me a week before I can really
answer a long letter, I will write somebody a postcard saying I won’t
answer you for a week…and now these people! Ugh.

I think your notion about Dick Eberhart, as a source of the
money-terror, may well be accurate. He gets everything mixed up.
It would not be any awful malice on his part… If he did it, I forgive
him. In general, that business just amuses me anyway. The business
about my outrageous fees.

I like “The Shooting” very very much indeed. I would put a comma
after “like his,” first line of last stanza…and I think you really
need it. It is a very very good one. No problems. Would this be the
first of a new bunch for Joey? Will there be more soon? Old Howard
will go on his vacation before terribly long… Are there others that
I am not thinking of? Things are a little rattly, up in the head, just

And thank you for your long March 3rd letter about the poems.

I guess I am going to go against your advice, with “The Day I was
Older.” Did you go back and look at the old version of the day itself,
or are you remembering it? If you looked at the old version, sometime
when you have a moment xerox it for me and send it back to me.

I do not reject your advice lightly. But you will find me probably
not taking much, and there is a reason: these things have gone three or
four hundred drafts, and in a way they are out of my hands. When your
advice would coincide with the advice of one other person, or surely two
other people, I would definitely follow it. Because I no longer can
tell the difference. But (as with this poem) when it doesn’t, I am
not able to think about it anymore. But I do thank you. And mind you,
I keep remembering what you said, and in the future I may do something
about it. Poems are never finished.

I am working again on the last three lines of that poem. You do
not mention those…but several people have. Some people love it, and
others hate it. I had some very articulate notions about it from one
person in particular, which has got me going back to it.

I do indeed wonder with you about Jack and the Beanstalk in the
New Animals. You are the first to mention it. But it was on my mind!
It was an addition.


Funny. Acorns appeal(ed) to everybody who first saw it – and now
two or three people don’t like it so much. So it is now a question
for me – do I leave it in the book or do I leave it out? I don’t know.

I don’t really follow you about The Granite State. If you have
time and the inclination, you could write me more about it.

I’m terribly glad that you liked “Another Elegy.”

That poem has is tremendously integrated. This is the kind of thing
I can do by doing four hundred drafts… And only by doing that many –
though I think it is probably a substitute for the inspirations of youth
and the fires of same. But it might be better, even if it is a substitute.
It is so damned integrated, that it is very hard for me to think of
cutting out parts. The cross references get down to the level of prefixes.

You tell me that you don’t like parts three and nine so much, the
parenthetical parts, but you don’t really tell me why. More!

I saw the New Hampshire Times article, and was very pleased to see
it. Because I know such things can be upsetting, have more or less kept
it away from Jane, and I don’t think she will probably ever see it. So
we have solved that one. I think.

Old Peter just took a poem of mine also, by the way, my Baseball
Players, of which I guess I did not send you a recent version.

Thanks so much for the help with the dumb old Poetry Society.

Best as ever,


A note from McNair about this letter: Don means to say in his first paragraph that when Pralle of the Poetry Society requested a resume from him, he wrote to say he’d send one in a week, though his thoughtfulness in doing so was lost on them. Now the ceremony for a new poet laureate would have to be postponed. Complicating Don’s appointment as poet laureate was Richard Eberhart’s fear that Don would charge New Hampshire audiences too much money for his readings…. “Old Peter” in the next-to-last paragraph is Peter Davison of The Atlantic.

Read The Baseball Players (published version)