McNair to Hall: May 6, 1984


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May 6, 1984

Dear Don,

Thanks again for your note on the Monitor article. I
like Mike Pride a lot, and I was glad for two reasons,
therefore, that we got together for the interview. And I
especially liked how he dealt with Emerson, using E. to
resolve so much of what he had developed in the article. It
was an amazingly serious piece for a small-town newspaper.

I still think about the confusion with pronouns in
The Shooting (my poem)–the words in that last stanza,
“…called his name over/and over”, which might have
referred, without your suggested comma, to the “face” which
the quiet twin held. I have about decided that the current
version, making they the ones who called, is so right for
the poem, I may even have intended to make them call all
along. Certainly the emphasis on “they” is the only right thing
to end with, and I do like the strange use of “call”–the
resonance the word gets in the new context, too. Were you
ever protected from making a mistake in a poem by the patterns
of syntax you yourself created?

On to the main reason for writing this letter: news
about jobs. It appears I have gotten a position for the fall
term at Dartmouth, as acting head of the writing program. I’m
sure your reference in my dossier helped a great deal in
forming Cleopatra Mathis’ decision to put my name forth. She
says the reference that helped most in convincing others was
the one by James Cox. If I had know [sic] Cox had such influence,
I would have asked him to recommend me three years ago, when
I sent my dossier to Dartmouth (this time, I didn’t send it,
but was recommended when Cleopatra called AWP). However the
idea to hire me was hatched (I will bet you had more to do
with it than I now know), I’m extremely glad it was. I would
guess even a filling-in position at Dartmouth could be a
stepping-stone for something later.

As I mentioned, I would like to see you sometime soon
about approaches to creative writing. I never get tired of
asking for things, as you can see! I have taught creative
writing before–fiction and poetry–but I want the teaching
for the term to be something more than adequate.

Oh, and there’s another job that has become available,


through a sad event–the death of David Battenfeldt, who
taught American literature for several years at my alma mater,
Keene State. Before the Dartmouth possibility came up, I
was in contact with Richard Cunningham, the acting dean of
humanities there. I underscore “acting” because if he is
not chosen to continue as dean, he, an Americanist, would
take some of Battenfeldt’s assignment, with the possible
result that there would be no new position.

What seems likely to happen, though, is that KSC will
advertise for a professor of American lit. next fall,
referring to an opening in the 1985-86 academic year. I have
already had Middlebury send my dossier to Cunningham, and
have asked AWP to send letters by you and Cox. Of course,
even if a job does become available at KSC, I may by then
get lucky with some other position, in some other state. Yet
I’d still like to stay in this area. And I love that part of
New Hampshire.

I am so tired of not being able to write! Knowing that
my two extra courses would be coming to a head in April, I
gave up all hope of writing in that month. I haven’t had to
do that sort of thing for a long time. And of course even my
periods of writing this year, with all the extra work, have
been full of distraction! I look to the next weeks (after the
finals at Colby are finished, in mid-May) as a time of the
greatest luxury. I will be offering no more than two courses
simultaneously during the summer–and there will be no more
than two class meetings per week. Heaven! I can become a poet
once again!

Please pass the news about jobs on to Jane. I promised
to get back to her about it, in a card I recently wrote to
her. I do hope your recent period of mad activity is now
over, and that you can become a poet once again too!

Love to both of you,