McNair to Hall: November 24, 1980



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November 24, 1980

Dear Don,

Diane and I both appreciated your note. I have
from time to time during this period thought about your
poem to your father. I imagine I will be writing about
my father-in-law, too. His life feels so small to
me now, and so unsung. I want to change that,
if I can.

Jane has our sympathy in her apprehension about
her father. We have known that feeling, too, and
it’s a difficult one to deal with.

But we press on – like the people of Frost’s poem
who “turned to their affairs.” There’s no other way.

I enclose a freshly typed version of the “Thugs”
poem, in case you would prefer it that way,
rather than in mimeographed form, as you have it
now. Suit yourself, and if Joey has already
sent the poem out, fine.

I also sent along a slightly revised version
of “Where I Live.” True, it has only been a
couple of weeks since I sent you the first version,

but I have been sitting on the first version for some
time already, and I’m therefore as sure as I’m
likely to be that the poem is ready in its present
form. Incidentally, I, too, worried about that
line-break you mentioned and played with it a great deal.
Your comment gave me the courage to make the
change of the enclosed. I do feel, though, that
there shouldn’t be a comma after “gas station.”

Please tell Joey, then, that it’s ok to send
out “Where I Live” and “Trees That Pass Us.”

And thank you, as usual, for your help.



A note from McNair about this letter: The revision of “Where I Live” involved changing one line break and two lines — from “beyond the last colonial/ gas station and unsolved by zoning/ is a road” to “beyond the last colonial gas station/ and unsolved by zoning/ is a road” — which responded to Don’s earlier questions, while keeping faith with the flow and meaning of the poem. Though place becomes a metaphor in “Where I Live,” the poem’s situation derives from my daily commute home from the college town of New London, New Hampshire, with its restored colonial homes, to my unvarnished location of North Sutton.

Read Where I Live (published version)

See also a selection of McNair’s manuscript notes and drafts for “Where I Live.”