McNair to Hall: January 4, 1984

Letter from McNair to Hall, January 4, 1984, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

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January 4, 1984
Dear Don,

I will now be small. I didn’t get an NEA this time,
and I resent it.

Most of my submitted poems were first in Poetry
and The Atlantic. Some have been or will be in the
84 and 85 issues of The Anthology of Magazine Verse
Others may be in the upcoming Pushcart book. And there
was work which won the “best poems” prize from Poetry.
I will bet not many on the winning list
had that sort of submission. I know
from my own sense of the poems they are among the
very best I’ve done–certainly miles beyond the
submission that got me an NEA four years ago.

Is the lesson that the poems you write are not as
important as the luck of getting the right readers for them?
I do think so.

Oh, well. You can’t win them all and shouldn’t,
as I do, expect to. I believe I have finally learned
the truth of “Expect Nothing.”

Now that I’ve vented spleen, I’m beginning
to feel good about returning to the beautiful planet
of the poem, free from the Great American Contests
of this world.

I love making poems!