McNair to Hall: June 3, 1982

Letter from McNair to Hall, June 3, 1982, Page 1, Milne Special Collections and Archives, University of New Hampshire

[Click image to view]

June 3, 1982

Dear Don,

All praise to Joey’s obsessions! I, too, would like to see
one of my poems end up there and would therefore as soon wait
with the poems I sent you, adding others through the summer
toward October.

Between now and then, I will have a chance to mull
over your comments about the poems. I think you are right
about the “heartbreakingly” of the brother poem. Actually, I
worry about clichés while working on many of my poems–
the consequence some of the time of working on “popular”
subject matter or trying to speak in an “unliterary”,
a “real” voice. Any suggestions about what might
replace the above word?

About “The Longing of the Feet”: You did
remark about that stanza

suddenly, the feet
are for carrying….

Originally, the stanza looked this way (over)


discovering, suddenly,
the feet
are for carrying

I changed the lineation so the sentence could be felt more
as a unit, and so I could leave out the “that” which
you thought might clarify the meaning of the stanza.
I decided against a “that” because I wanted the sense
of discovering “feet” and “are for carrying” more or
less at once. The word “that”, I felt, would restrict
the stanza to one discovery. Thus, my revision (again,
with notes):

picking up new
meanings, lending
to surprise
“hands” of next
discovering, suddenly, the feet are for carrying

You may be right about the shape of “The Before People.”
I will have time to think about that, too.

Anyway, I am very glad you like these poems.
You have made my week.

My manuscript bombed at all presses except
Pittsburgh, from which I will receive word by June’s end.

Thanks for your letter



Editorial note about this letter:  McNair finally decided to keep “The Before People” as he originally had it, and though discussion of the two other poems continued until June 18, he settled on minor revisions Hall suggested for “My Brother in the Revolving Doors” and “The Longing of the Feet,” avoiding Hall’s objection to the “mysterious flight” of the feet (“I really don’t know what they’re doing or why it is the feet would do that.”)

Read The Longing of the Feet (published version)

Read My Brother Inside the Revolving Doors (published version)