McNair to Hall: January 17, 1981


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January 17, 1981

Dear Don,

I do hope your “big son” is at least relating ok –
taking nourishment, and even drinking an occasional
beer, as I think I recollect he enjoys doing. At least
what happened can be mended – no doubt the mending
goes on right now, and that is good. My thoughts
are with you during this unpleasantness.

Thank you for sending the notes from Poetry. I
am awfully pleased to know the poems will appear there.
The lift this gives me is especially important at
this time, since, to tell the truth, I happen to be
going through a very down period. In the past
few weeks, I have found myself crying a lot,
immersed in regrets of various kinds, painfully
aware of the cost of running too hard in
my life. I am told “This Thing” happens to
others. Did “it” happen to you at roughly my
age? I have been, I think, fighting it off
for a couple of years, at least. But the thing
is here now, full force. I guess I am relieved


in a way to have lost control, to have found this new
contact with my emotions; yet how much everything
hurts! And how irrelevant the “main memories”
of my life feel!

You can see, then, why I have not written to you
for a while. I believe I am ready to do better
with that now. But I did want you to know why
this lapse!

Even writing is hard to do – that is, poetry writing –
especially when I am in the process of discovering
how much about my “inner life” my poems contain,
even when they are about subjects quite removed
from personal experience. Of course, I always knew
all my poems were autobiographical, as everyone’s
are. It’s just that I never knew how much
autobiography was there!

Anyway, I do send a poem along – a new
version of a piece you saw earlier. I hope
to be sending other stuff, too, in the not-too-distant

In the meantime, best to you, your son, and
your wife – and thank you again for all your notes.



Editorial note about this letter: The poem that McNair mentions at the end of this letter is “A Dream of Herman” (see December 9, 1980) for which he changed the word “riffled” to “scribbled,” responding to Don’s earlier critique, though he has not yet dealt with Don’s rejection of the “perfect iambic pentameter” in the poem’s last line.