Hall to McNair: September 23, 1982


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23 September 1982

Wes McNair
Box 42
North Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

You do have a wonderful gift for finding the dream right
in the dark center of popular things, like the Big Cars.

I like both of these poems. Possibly both of them could
be touched up a bit. Let me ruminate and wander….

I think that “…the American Dream parade” is almost
too much, and it might be too much… You know, “smiling a
lane wide” is almost over the line into pop culture itself,
not just about it but it… Then comes the next: Is it
ironic or is it celebratory almost? True questions, not
disguised statements.

I don’t understand “their future.” That is, I understand
it as the future or our future…and since you say their future,
which is a little strange, I take it you mean something different.
Why is the future belonging to these old cars? As I understand
it, the meaning is fine…but the expression is a little strange.
However, I take it that I am not really understanding what you

Then I don’t really like the syntax of “maps/falling open…”
through “suddenly the antiques of optimism…” I think it is
very elliptical and hard to follow, and I don’t see that its
difficulty has any function. I would think that it might be
more parallel and easy to (sic) end”America!” parallel to the previous
sentence-fragment, and then make a new sentence, although the
line would be a bit long. “Suddenly they are the antiques of
optimism…” except maybe that isn’t just right. I really
think it might be clarified in here. Then I think that the
syntax at the end is also hard to follow, that is, I think
that “behind” is a little ambiguous…or that whole line is.
I think it might need more expression, I think you might need
to say “behind them,” or something… I have tinkered with
ways to alter it, and I can’t do it by tinkering… I think
it needs to be spread out a little, said a little more fully.
But I think the whole thing is here and lovely, it is just a
matter of small details.

I like Mute a whole lot, and think that the end of it
is very beautiful, but again I am puzzled by some details. I’m
not sure about the antecedent of “it” in the last line. The
farm? It’s pretty far away… It could be the name, but then
I wouldn’t understand what.

But I don’t really understand what happened at the beginning.
Did the boy fall into the ice, really and truly, or is it a
metaphor for something else? Obviously there is a pun going
on, when you say “the son broke through the surface,” because
one would constantly speak of “the sun breaking through the
clouds…” It seems like a metaphor because you say “the
surface/of their solid world” – but then I don’t know what
it is a metaphor of, or what sort of things it might be a
metaphor of, even. Just a death? Mourning and lamentation
come clear with the second sentence.

But I don’t really know why “sign” is singular, rather


than the conventional plural notion. Does it really change it?
Or does it just mystify it? And why the suggestion of mother
and daughter kissing? Of course it need not be that. It can
be that each, separately, touches each’s own mouth… You see
I am wandering a bit in here! I love the old man getting drunk
and the mosquitoes and so on… And the sound stopping. Now I
am thinking that “it” must be “name,” but it almost seems as if
I ought to know what that name would be, or what sort of thing
it ought to be, and I feel sort of kept out or mystified by
the poem.

This sounds much more negative, about this poem, that I
Intend it to be. I like the poem a lot. Maybe you can help
me with it.

Of course it could be this damned head-cold still. But I
don’t think so completely.

Joey (and I in my own name, for that matter) has started
the campaign. Do not expect anything for a long time – well,
don’t expect anything ever, I suppose…but don’t expect even
shreds for a while. Not because I am slow but because publishers

Love as ever,