Hall to McNair: October 27, 1980


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27 October 1980

Wesley McNair
Box 43
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

I will see you before I mail this – but I’ll be
damned if I’ll give up the opportunity for writing a
letter. I like your notepaper. How do you like mine?
Mine is courtesy of Peru, Indiana, where most of the worst
and most notorious letter writers of the United States
buy their stationary because it is so cheap. Marianne
Moore and I, Robert Creely and I all share the same

Please realize that the main problem is that jobs
are terribly difficult. That is, probably two thousand
people apply for each job listed, and of those two thousand
one thousand have a Ph.D. already, and another seven hundred
almost have it. And for a job in creative writing, if only
and probably most of them can claim a “book” or two… Because
hiring is done on the basis of statistics rather than value,
they are most likely to get the job than you are – at this
moment. Once you have a book things will get easier. There
will still be hundreds and hundreds of and hundreds of people,
terrible poets with terrible books, who will statistically
equal you! It is all so ridiculous!

I fear for Colby-Sawyer also. And I admire the place,
and think there are a lot of good teachers there, certainly
many very hardworking ones, and it is a good place for those
one out of four girls who will manage to mature in the head,
to get alive, while they are there. I fear for it. Muller
seems to be a clever man, and maybe he can work miracles. But
it is scary. I feel really frightened for the good people
teaching there – which obviously includes you! Jack Jensen
my minister and dear friend… so many others. Maybe Carl
is the lucky one, retiring at this time.

The payscale also I realize. though the other thing is
more serious. But of course if you were paid twenty-five per
cent more in Tempe, you would probably have less money in
Tempe than you have in North Sutton!

Therefore if I were you and I were offered a decent
job elsewhere I would probably go also! I think you will
not be offered a good job elsewhere right now – which is not
to say that you should not try. I believe that you should try.
I believe however that the chances are against you, and that
therefore you can take your sabbatical!

A note from McNair about this letter: The “Muller” referred to here is Nick Muller, then the president of Colby-Sawyer College. Though the College had fallen on hard times in this period of its history, it eventually bounced back and is now thriving.