Hall to McNair: September 3, 1980


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3 September 1980

Wes McNair
North Sutton
New Hampshire

Dear Wes,

A week from today I teach my first class. This Friday
I go to a department meeting. I know it is ridiculous, dis-
gusting, and revolting – but I practically feel sorry for
myself, and here I am teaching only one course in three years!
Do not tell anybody my disgusting secret.

I don’t know why this poem doesn’t work but you are
perfectly right to be worried about it. It does not work.
It makes me nervous all the way through, and not nervous in
a good way. It trembles on at the side of making fun of them,
and somehow or other that is too dreadful. Yet it is a wonderful
idea, and I would think that there is a wonderful poem here
but not yet, and not in these words. I would put it deep in a
far drawer, “forget about it,” so far as you can, and discover
it by accident three years from now, sit down and write it out
perfectly. Well, that is what I would like to do, if I were
you. I would not struggle with it now. It is not a matter of
just changing a word here or there. It is something profounder
going on here.

I was delighted to see the poems in Poetry! They really
look good. And as I told Diane, old Nims puts them in a place
of honor. One is honored to be either first or last of the
group of poets there. This has been true forever and ever.
It means he thinks well of you. After we hear from the Atlantic,
unless the Atlantic buys everything we send them, we will go
back to see if we can sell some more to Nims. That’s a good
place to publish.

Best as ever,


Will write on the new version

A note from McNair about this letter: The class Don refers to at the outset of this letter is the one he is teaching at Colby-Sawyer College to prepare notes for a new edition of his college textbook on composition, Writing Well.