McNair to Hall: December 5, 1980


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Postmarked Dec 5, 1980

Dear Don,

Thanks for your words of support about my sabbatical
decision. I will remember that Hall principal and your
obsession about people wasting their lives doing sensible

The news about the sabbatical is good. It was approved
just after I sent my last letter. That means 15
months of solid writing, a gift from heaven. I was
a bit worried about being granted a full year, since I
have had a lot of time away from the college recently
(was gone in 77-78, and am, of course, gone this term).
I believe the committee which approved my application
had the prerogative or recommending the half-year
alternative if it seemed American Studies was suffering
as a result of my absence. But I have been grooming
Pat Anderson for the past several months to replace me
as co-ordinator of American Studies (again, to
give myself more time for writing), and I am sure
the knowledge that Pat will be running things soon helped.
Also, I convinced Wally before the committee made its
decision – before I submitted my application, too – that
Carl should be replaced for the benefit of the A.S. program,


this in spite of the college’s position that a “new Carl”
was not needed. As it turns out, the new person will be
able to take some of my courses, as will Pat.

The pay for a full-year sabbatical at Colby
is ¾ – not ½ – of the professor’s salary. The ¾ pay
policy was instituted at the college by faculty vote a
couple of years ago. Diane and I figure that my
salary, plus hers, plus the money we get for
renting part of the upstairs, will carry us through
so that Diane will be free during evenings for work
on her ceramics, I will be a “househusband”
(in the parlance of the talk shows), just as I am now.

As you can imagine, I am just ecstatic to have
this time. It will help me to capitalize on the
momentum I have gained from the current time

And the momentum is significant. I have
several poems – many more than I have ever had
at any one time – finished and nearly finished in
my notebooks. And I am speaking here not of


poems I have sent to you already, but of new work.
I am sure that with the addition time off, I will be
able to complete a large share of the second book I
am currently working on. For the first time in my life,
I can call myself a poet, without misgivings.

Thanks for your comment about the work of this
term, by the way. I can only say there is much
you haven’t yet seen. But there has been a lot
of work, and knowing how things might have gone,
I feel very fortunate in this. Naturally, I also
feel lucky to have had the sympathetic attention
of Fran McCullough, one of those who read the
poems I submitted for my N.E.A. grant. And I
am mindful of who first brought these poems to
her attention.

So in spite of my difficulty with that book
of mine, I feel blessed in my writing, and
in the continuous help and encouragement of
yourself and of Joey Amaryllis.

More poems after a while. In the meantime,
all the best to you in your writing, too. And
to Jane in hers.