McNair to Hall: September 10, 1980


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September 10, 1980

Dear Don,

Thanks for your letter, with its variety of responses to my
questions and comments.

Thanks, too, for your advice about bio notes. Actually, I was
surprised at what was written about me in Poetry. The write-up
was not derived from any statement I sent, but from a rather
extensive questionnaire which I filled out about jobs, publications,
grants and even “plans.”

The fact is, though, that I never even considered the dangers of
sounding “successful” when I filled out the form – nor did I
think much about sounding “academic.” You are right that I
should think about these things. What matters, anyway, is not
that stuff but the poems themselves; which is part of your

Yes, “objectivity” is clearly beside the point in “The
Slow Children,” as your quotations make plain. You help
to clear my head for the later revision. No, I do not
hold onto poems when I first think they are finished,
which perhaps explains why I send you revisions after
I have sent you what seemed to be the final version. It
takes me so long to finish a poem, I guess, I am
overly anxious to have someone else read it, like it
and confirm that I really can go on to other work.
I will have to work on this impulse….

You have my prayers as you start at Colby – and
a question. Since (as I have been told) you are using
my office at Colby, maybe you would like me to clean
out my desk and cabinets? I had no idea you would
be there, though I probably could have figured it out.
Let me do this: I will clean out the desk and the
small cabinet to the right of the desk. Then you will
have room for whatever you may need to store. Is
that suitable? While you wait for whatever the prayers
may bring, I can at least deliver you from storage problems!
I will try to take care of this by the end of the

Until then, may God be with you.



A note from McNair about this letter: The issue Don has raised about the need to hold onto poems before showing them begins to take effect here and returns in my correspondence later on (for instance, in the letter of Section IV dated October 22, 1980), becoming one of Don’s most influential notions about revision, second only to his injunction about the possibility of publishing a book or getting a grant: “Expect nothing.”