Hall to McNair: November 3, 1982

Letter from Hall to McNair, November 3, 1982, Colby College Special Collections

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3 November 1982

Wes McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

I think this is extremely beautiful, possibly even one
of your very best – and I think it has one horrible word in it.
A gross and palpable dead metaphor in the word “cradling.” (It
is the same dead metaphor which practically ruins Roethke’s
Meadow Mouse…but not quite.) (You are alive: you can change
it!) There are some people who actually say that the bandito cradled
the Thompson sub-machine gun – and then claim that they are not
comparing the sub-machine gun to a baby!

It is another one like “cupping” and “darting” which is
very commonly used, but is a dead metaphor. There is a man
who sends poems to the Country Journal who tries to tell me
that the word “wake,” as in “in the wake of the scythe,” has
absolutely nothing to do with water, because after all his
Webster’s and his Roget tell him that it means “aftermath” and
things like that…

Anyway, could you find something else for that? And there
is one other dead metaphor, which is “framed,” but it is not
such a sore thumb as “cradling.” I would infinitely prefer
that there were something besides an oil painting or a window
in that line, because “framed” in the sense of “outlined” or
“surrounded” is very very dead… But it is not so bad as
cradling and I can’t pretend it is.

The only other thing I have any doubt about at all is the
rhythm in “just look down at the rug/ on rugs to wear…” (sic: “where”) A whole
lot of monosyllables without much importance to any of them,
and it makes for a dead patch in the rhythm, and it is especially
in the first line there. I wonder if it might be possible to
take out at least one of the little words.

But what I started out with is the real thing. This is
absolutely wonderful.

Love as ever,