McNair to Hall: April 2, 1984

Letter from McNair to Hall, April 2, 1984, Page 1, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

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April 2, 1984

Dear Don,

I am writing this letter on my way back from
the AWP meeting, which I attended in order to
hear poets talk about how to teach poetry
writing (this, in preparation for possible
interviews). The talk was uninformative.
Perhaps sometime I could talk to you about
approaches to writing classes (my own instruction
in the area has been occasional only). I have a
sense of what I might do, but no convictions
derived from long-term, regular teaching. Next
time we get together, I warn you, I may pursue

However that may turn out, I do want to
respond (finally) to your letter, and so I
brought it on the plane with me. About “The Day”:
I still wish you would think about printing
in your book something closer to the earlier
version you sent me. (I will not send this
letter until I photocopy the earlier poem.) I
have never seen a poem which contains what


this poem contains. For me, it gives a perspective on
life and death–father and son, too–that is
entirely new. Am I wrong in surmising that you
have come to believe the idea this poem expresses is
inappropriate–that you shouldn’t be asking for
your father’s forgiveness? If I am not wrong,
I say (for whatever it may be worth) that the poem’s
tone–genuine and convincing as it is–makes
clear your need to ask that forgiveness–also,
that the asking is what makes the poem so complicated,
interesting and moving.

I did certainly notice how “integrated” Another
Elegy is. It’s wonderfully integrated. From the
beginning, I’ve very much liked that integration.
I think it contributes to a movement in the poem
that is rich and profound. So much so that I’ve
decided, after on-and-off readings since your
last letter, that sections 3 and 9 really are
OK, in spite of my earlier quibbling. I very
much like the ideas those sections include: that
you, the writer of the poem, have “ambitions”


of your own, and doubts. Also, the sections sound
like you–they convey that candor, that deep
honesty, that I find characteristic of the real-
life you.

I hope to God these comments are helpful.

One little piece of news: I got a letter
from Kathleen Anderson, a senior editor at
Norton. She has apparently read my book–
wrote to congratulate me on the Devins Award,
and to say she would like me to send her
my next manuscript.

I hope all is OK with your mother–
and you–and Jane.



 Read The Day I Was Older (published version)