McNair to Hall: July 3, 1980


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July 3, 1980

Dear Don,

Hoping that I might hear something positive from U.
Pittsburg about my book, I have held off writing to you
until now. You will remember that last year Ed Ochester
at Pittsburg asked me to resubmit my manuscript this
year. Well, the thing got rejected again. Ochester
said he liked the “Going Back to 5th Grade” sections
and “Faces of Americans,” and he re-invited me to
resubmit next year.

Weary of resubmitting – also to Yale, where the
book was also rejected – I am quite down about things
right now. I did not realize, I guess, how difficult
publishing the book was going to be. And yet I should
not be ungrateful, I know. I am very lucky to have
the NEA grant, and besides, others have tried longer
than I have so far to get books published, with no
better results. I will certainly come out of this,
eventually. I have put entirely too much stock in
the Pittsburg possibility – that is the problem. I am
in the process of resolving really and truly not to
“expect” in the future.

The thing to do now, I guess, is to send the book
to other places. Would it do any good at all to


send it to places like Viking, Doubleday and Knopf?
That is, would these houses be likely to even read an
unsolicited first book of poems? I suppose you will
say “no” to this, and anyway, I am thinking
mainly of university presses for the book – Illinois,
Princeton and Carnegie-Mellon – if you think these
are good choices. Should I mail it to U. Georgia,
where Paul Zimmer now is? My main interest at this
point is in being published at a press whose books
are likely to be reviewed widely – and picked up
later by anthologies.

Earlier, you mentioned the possibility of Houghton
Mifflin. I do intend to send HM poems for
review in the fall, the procedure for those who wish
to qualify for consideration in the “New Poetry”
series. Since I have little confidence in my own
capacity to choose the “review” poems (my choices
last year, you may recall, led to my being
disqualified), I wonder if you would mind suggesting
poems to send when the time comes? I would
appreciate your help here, though of course I realize
that whatever help one gets, (to use your words) “it’s
a lottery.”


I am happy with the writing I am doing now,
in spite of my current depression. (As I write
of “depression,” it comes to me that last night
I dreamed all night of falling – an interesting
new expression of the vertical metaphor which I
seem to write about so much!) I have decided
that I will not trouble you with the individual
poems I complete, as I have done in the past-
that I will send you small batches of poems instead.
My first batch is not yet ready, but I am writing
daily and steadily, and you shall see results in
due time.

There is, after all, no one whose opinion I value
more – or half as much – as yours. It is my
extraordinary luck that you have been there
with concern and encouragement, even in the
most discouraging times. That gives me hope
that the long wait will one day prove worthwhile.
I am everlastingly grateful for your faith
in my poems.