McNair to Hall: May 12, 1981


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May 12, 1981

Dear Don,

Finally, I manage to write!

I thought time would be easier to find after my course at NHC
concluded at the end of April, but then Diane went into the
hospital for a hernia operation. Now, she is at home, recuperating,
and I am trying to keep the house in order. I write this just
after getting the kids on the bus, and just before starting housework.
Soon, I will be taking this to the mail and going to the college to
pick up final exams. So you see, time isn’t easier to find.

Fortunately, Diane’s recuperation is going well. Yesterday,
she was able to do some work in her studio, and she is able
to spend more time on her feet every day. She hopes to be
well enough by June to go to Haystack–a ceramics
school in Maine, whose month-long session I paid for
with NHC money…the only good thing which came out
of that experience. Obviously, she will be staying away from
the liquor store for several days.

The news on my book is all bad. I will soon be one of
the most famous also-rans in American publishing. I was
a finalist in this year’s Walt Whitman contest, and I was
a finalist in the Princeton poetry series. AWP just wrote to
say my book received “serious consideration” (the note was
attached to their copy of my manuscript). The book is now
at Pittsburgh and Alabama. You will remember that
it got to the final reading in Pitt last year and the


year before. I doubt the pattern will be broken this year–unless,
perhaps, the manuscript doesn’t quite make it that far.

I’m trying to decide whether I should change the format
of the book. Perhaps the title The Faces of Americans in 1853
and a new arrangement of the poems would make the thing
more “marketable.” What do you think? Unhappy as I
am about seeing the book through another cycle of readings
next year, I fear I will soon be facing that prospect,
and I have the feeling a new approach is needed.

As I’ve implied, the Colby-Sawyer term is almost
over now. I will be able to write soon, and I am looking
forward to that mightily. A month ago, I wouldn’t have
been able to say that. I was still going through my
“bad patch,” which turned out to be far more extensive
than I thought it might be. The nutso activity
of the semester was finally a good thing for me
since it keeps me away from my inner world, which was
in a terrible flux. Now, I feel freer to deal with
that world. And I miss writing awfully.

The latest news from Colby-Sawyer includes two
acquaintances of yours. One, Wally Ewing, who left
the college in January to manage–and invest in–a
business which failed, is now managing the Kearsarge
golf course, which the college recently purchased. The
other, Carl Cochran, will soon be ending his association


with the college. Tomorrow, he will be feted by the English
department at Pat Anderson’s house. We are giving him a
pewter plate inscribed with Henry Adams’ words about
the teacher–“The teacher affects eternity; one can never
tell where his influence stops”–Also, we are notifying
him that the American studies program award will now
bear his name.

My day’s schedule calls! Blessings to you and Jane,
and happy spring!