McNair to Hall: March 25, 1980


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March 25, 1980

Dear Don,

I want you know how much I like your book
String Too Short To Be Saved. I feel close to many
of the book’s characters because you make me feel
close to them, but also because I myself met people
like them in my experiences on farms in the Cornish
and Meridian area during the 1950’s.

I especially like the way the concluding chapter,
“Out of the Garden” manages to recapitulate earlier
themes as it states its own. The last sentence of
“Out of the Garden” is breathtaking. Still, my
favorite chapter is “The Blueberry Picking.” I have
read few things in my life so good as that reminiscence
is. It is so deeply metaphoric and yet so natural
and “real” in the experience it relates. And
what feeling one senses in the speaker as he looks
back upon the boy self in his “Thirst,” and upon
the old man who hopes the boy will “remember.”
I am just dazed by that piece.

Reading String Too Short (wonderful, wonderful title!)


made me return to Kicking the Leaves to discover
new meanings in the poems of that collection.
All over again I love “Kicking the leaves”, “Flies”,
“The Black Faced Sheep,” “The Ox Cart Man,”
“Names of Horses.” I also went back to The
Alligator Bride
to reread some of my favorite
poems in that – or any other – collection: “The Days,”
“The Stump,” “The Old Pilot,” “New Hampshire,”
“The Repeated Shapes,” “The Man in the Dead Machine,”
etc. And I saw for the first time how often you
are in poetry what you call yourself in String
Too Short
– an “elegist.”

How wonderful it has been to read this book
and your other books through it! Now Diane
has String Too Short, and no one can tear
her away from it. (She, too, visited farmer
relations in New Hampshire when she was a girl.)
She joins me in thanking you for the book. It
is wonderful to know that a person whose work
I like so much likes my work, too!



P.S. I include “Hair on Television” for Joey’s collection
of my poems. It was rejected by APR –

Read Flies (published version)

Read The Black-Faced Sheep (published version)

Read Names of Horses (published version)

Read The Days (published version)

Read The Stump (published version)

Read The Old Pilot (published version)

Read New Hampshire (published version)

Read The Repeated Shapes (published version)

Read The Man in the Dead Machine (published version)