McNair to Hall: October 28, 1981


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October 28, 1981

Dear Don,

Yes, I did just get word from you that Jane’s
father died. I suppose it is finally a relieving
thing for you both, since he had been hanging by
a thread for so long. I hope Jane is holding
together, and that you are. Diane and I both
wish you both well.

You wrote about my book at the very time I
was set to write you some good news about it.
Gerald Costanzo, of Carnegie Mellon Press,
sent me a very full letter about it, said
he found it “excellent” and did want to
publish it, though it was too late for this
year’s publication list. (My best information
was that manuscripts of poetry should be sent
to C.M. any time during the year. Apparently,
this is no longer so.) He asked me to send
it to him again in 1982, between September


15 and October 15, and while he did not flat out
say he would publish it, he left me with the
impression that he would. The letter really did not
seem to be an elaborate “no.” Whatever it
may have been, it left me ‘up’ about the book’s
chances in the current form.

But I remain most concerned about your
feeling that the book might benefit from the addition
of other poems. If you finally feel I should
revise the thing, I will certainly consider doing
so. My main problem is that I went ahead
and ran copies of the present version (you’ll
remember I told you I had to do so because
contest time was coming up fast). But no
matter. I still have a bit of time for a
revision if I know of your ideas soon.

You ask if there was any “near-misses”
for inclusion in the book. I have not really
considered any poems for the revision


other than the ones you found in it. Here are the
titles of the poems which seem to me appropriate
for some book, and which I’ve left out of this one:
(1) The Poetic License; (2) Beggars; (3) Trees That Pass Us
(4) A Dream of Herman; (5) The Fat People of the
Old Days; (6) Calling Harold; (7) The People Upstairs;
(8) The Fat Enter Heaven.

I left “(1)” out of the new book because it
broke the affirmative–unironically affirmative–
mood which the Porter poems establish in part 5,
and which moves into part 6. (I should say
also that the Porter poems establish a feeling about
region that I don’t want to intrude upon.)
I left “(2)” out because it has little to do with
the book as a whole, and little connection with
the poems of the last section in particular.
I suppose there might be some reason to include
one or two of the other poems–though probably
(5) and (8) wouldn’t fit. I can’t see much
justification for adding others, though. Maybe


(3) could work in the affirmative last section; problem is,
it’s still another “region–viewed–from–car” poem,
and I have too many poems of that kind in the last
section already–three, in fact. Poem (6) might
be put into the last section, too; it is, after all,
a positive sort of verse. But it has nothing to do
with the new consideration of region (“new” after
the region of part 2)–and I do want this
business to dominate in Part 5.

For me, the book, whose epigraph promises
a “journey” that goes “backward in time”
“after a few wavers” begins with wavers,
or waverings, in the present, (sections 1 and 2),
goes backward (sections 3, 4, 5–hints in 2)
and returns to the present (Section 6). The
journey works on personal, regional, and national
levels. All of the poems must fit that movement,
and must relate to the more-or-less negative
beginning and positive ending of the book.


That, in brief, is the way I see what I’ve done
with the poems of the book. Please let me know
where you may disagree! Also let me know
if you have any response to the revisions
I recently sent–particularly to “A Dream
of Herman.” Perhaps you didn’t get the
poems I mailed. I worry about that. Then again,
maybe I sent them more recently than I think.

Anyway, I look forward to your comments
about any of the above (new pen). And please
give our very best to Jane.

More later about your visit here!