McNair to Hall: November 29, 1980


[Click image to view]

November 29, 1980

Dear Don,

Just so you won’t think you have a Louis Untermeyer
on your hands, I do want you to know I am aware
of the resonance of that last sentence in “Out, Out-.”
I think the sentence means just what you said.
On the one hand, it suggests the people are outrageous
in being so sensible as to turn to their affairs,
given the strange and violent death of the boy, and
the seeming malevolence of the saw that caused his
death. But the sentence also implies, as you say,
that there is little else for the people to do – and
besides, their ignorance (some of it willed) saves them
from living with “fright,” and perhaps from giving
their own hands to saws.

I happen to feel that a certain malevolence
hung over Herman (my father-in-law), especially
in his last days, and that he was aware of it, too.
So in a way, I see what the boy, with Frost, sees.
But I also identify with those people, and so
my quotation. With them, I feel the danger of
“fright” and the pull of “affairs.” More knowing


than they are, I nonetheless respond as they respond.

There, I hope I have cleared things up.
I will try not to take so much for granted next
time I quote Frost!

Good that Joey is moving onward with
the new poems. I hope for some good news,
as my book has been rejected by Georgia,
with no more than a form letter. Earlier, I
got a note from Costanzo at Carnegie-Mellon
which said that he like the book very much,
but that he would not be able to publish it
this year as he had already accepted all the books
the current budget would allow. Did I tell you
I got a form rejection letter from Houghton
Mifflin some time back? Over two years after
the book’s completion, the rejections keep coming in.
I am not too down about that yet, but I do
hope something breaks by spring. Otherwise, I
could be in trouble.

Ah, well. To affairs! In that department


I should tell you about my sabbatical application
I have decided to take a year-long sabbatical
next year if I can get it – and I think I can.
I haven’t ruled out a move from Colby, but I
do believe I should not pass up the possibility
of a year (15 mos. Actually) for writing if
I can get it. I would, besides, much rather have
completed poems than a job at any university,
however stable or prestigious.

I let you know how this goes. I should
know by mid-December.

The writing still goes slowly and well.
I shall hold all back, with no help from
Joey, for a while though.

Thanks to you and Joey for all your help,
and regards to Jane!