McNair to Hall: August 18, 1983

Letter from McNair to Hall, August 1983, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

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August 18, 1983

Dear Don,

Thought you might want to see Costanzo’s
response to my letter about the Devins Award.
I was awfully pleased with his comments
about the Award, my book and future possibilities
at Carnegie-Mellon. (As you know, I am more
than half finished with book II.) Not the best
idea, probably, to photocopy someone else’s letter
and send it, but I can’t imagine Gerry
would mind my showing it to you.

Calls back and forth have already begun
with U/Missouri. Wonderfully enough, they
are interested in my ideas about the
book jacket–and other matters of presentation.


I was happy to learn from Greg Martin,
their sales person, that advertising for the
book, among academic journals and poetry
magazines, will be extensive.

How wonderful it is to be writing about
a book!

We will be at your play on August 23.
Then there’s that Hale Award! You do make
our month busy!



P.S. Were you aware that Frost, the first recipient
of the Hale Award, wrote a parody of Sarah Josepha
Hale’s poem, “Mary Had a Little Lamb”? (I got
this from Raymond Holden, the poet, who spoke about
Frost in Newport before he (Holden) died.):

“Mary had a little lamb;
His name was Jesus Christ.
God, not Joseph, was the ram,
But Joseph acted nice.”

482 Queen Anne Road
Harwich, MA 02645
August 15, 1983

Dear Wes,

Congratulations! I’m very happy for you even though a bit disappointed
that it won’t be us this time around. I think the Devins is a terrific
award. I won it and they published my first book in 1975. A year later
they produced an LP record which featured a reading of mine and the
following year’s winner. Ed King and his people have always been more
than kind to me. Missouri’s distribution is much better now that Harper
& Row is distributing for them, too.

The only problem, as you already seem to gather, is that they don’t do
any “second” books by people they begin with. But you’ll find that I’ve
been rather partial to former Devins winners at Carnegie-Mellon. Winners
I’ve published books by are John Calvin Rezmerski, Peter Cooley (not a winner
but a runner-up who they did anyway), Jonathon Holden, and Ed Ochester.

I might say that as far as I’m concerned your manuscript is the best
one to win that award in ages (probably since mine, he said humbly) and
I’m really pleased. We were to have visited Hall’s this weekend and I
was hoping to meet you, but those plans have fallen through. But have
Missouri send me a copy when it is out and we’ll review it in Three Rivers
Poetry Journal. When I get back to Pittsburgh I’ll send my copy back
to you.

Again, congratulations. This is something you really deserve.



A note from McNair about this letter: Days earlier, I phoned Don to tell him that the poet David Wagoner had selected The Faces of Americans in 1853 for the 1983 Devins Award (a cash prize of $500, with book publication and a public reading at the University of Missouri). He was as excited as I was.