McNair to Hall: September 2, 1981


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September 2, 1981

Dear Don,

Rising early in the morning seems to be the only
way of writing this letter to you–a letter I have
been “about to write” for a very long time. So I’ve
risen early, after staying up until nearly two
this morning covering a couch.

I do not recall if I told you that Diane and
I decided to have some renovations done on the
house during this summer. In fact, we made the
contract with our builders shortly before her accident.
Have you ever gone through a period of renovation?
I never guessed how time-consuming this thing
would be. It has of course gone on at the very
time Diane has been recuperating–terrible timing,
but the builders couldn’t work us into their schedule
later on, and we had to get certain things such as
roofing and re-clapboarding done before winter.
Also, we needed to have our porch repaired–
the boards were in woeful shape. We combined
that exterior work with renovation of the kitchen
and bathroom, and with other projects such as
recovering the couch. The builders have only just
left, so that the “other projects” can begin. Thus,


our summer, which began with getting Diane back on
her feet and dealing with the builders, now concludes
with finishing touches on the renovation. I am bound
and determined to get all that stuff done before my
sabbatical officially begins so I can (finally)
settle down to long days of writing. At this point,
I am deeply frustrated, dying to get going on

I am, however, also pleased with Diane’s recovery.
She threw away her crutches some weeks ago and
is now up and around with only occasional, and
minor relapses. Her physical therapist thinks her
recuperation is near-miraculous, and so do I.
A week ago, we learned that she has been granted
worker’s compensation. More good news!

I have managed to revise my book manuscript.
So I am totally free for new work, come two
weeks from now. I have decided to call it
The Faces of Americans in 1853. I have also
removed “The Poetic License” from the “Faces”
section of the book, so that the affirmative

[Written in left margin at last line, above:
Forgot to mention
I’ve also removed
the “dirty” poems
and “Beggars.”
Perhaps they are
poems for a
different book – ]


connection with Rufus Porter (central figure in
the as-of-now last two poems in the section)
leads without irony to the last section and its
reconciliation with self and place. I have
retitled two of the sections (the last, for instance,
is called “Where I Live”), and I’ve added three
new poems, all of which you’ve seen.

This week, I begin to retype the book, so
you can see it sometime next week. I am
quite happy with the new form. It makes a lot
more sense, I think, as a “journey.” I hope you
like it, and I hope to God I can finally get
rid of it. I must move on from the book and
its needs to new work, new concerns!

I hope your own writing is going well. Two days
ago, I was visited by a friend who brought back
my copy of Kicking the Leaves, and I reread it.

It really is a wonderful book, far better than
any reviews have said, even though the reviews
were generally positive. The elegiac feeling is
so strong in it, and so elegantly expressed!
“Names of Horses,” “Flies,” “Black Faced Sheep,”


poem after poem hits me over the head. Also, I returned
to the concluding pages of String Too Short To Be Saved,
this time noticing a description of the present which
reminds me of a poem you sent me in manuscript
called “The Intersection.” (The description I mean
is in the Epilogue, “Being Here.”) I have not yet
looked up the poem, but I would guess the description
will help me with it. Anyway, I like the (new) part
of the book very much–almost took it as an
epigraph for my book, but it wasn’t quite the right

Got the two copies of The Atlantic a few days ago,
and I was most thrilled. I do thank you and
Joey again for making that happen.

Please pass on regards to Jane. I hope she
has got beyond the Great Sorrow of awhile

And I send this to Danbury, assuming
that by now you are back there. Best to you,
Jane, Wesley Wells, the animals and all
at Eagle Pond Farm and environs!

And Love,