Donald Hall, 1928 – 2018

June 25, 2018

Donald Hall standing outside a houseFormer US poet laureate Donald Hall died on Saturday, June 23 at the age of eighty-nine, his literary executor Wendy Strothman announced. The namesake of AWP’s endowed Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, Hall was the author of more than forty books, roughly half of which were poetry, including Without, his celebrated collection written after the passing of his partner, the poet Jane Kenyon, and The Selected Poems of Donald Hall, which was published in 2015.

In addition to his tenure as poet laureate (2006– 2007), Hall was awarded two Guggenheim fellowships, the Poetry Society of America’s Robert Frost Silver medal, the Ruth Lilly Prize for poetry, and the prestigious National Medal of Arts in 2010. At a ceremony at the White House, President Obama remarked that Hall’s work had “inspired Americans and enhanced the role of poetry in our national life.” Indeed, the bulk of Hall’s bucolic poems emphasized rural life—the lifecycle of the natural world and those who live in it.

Mr. Hall was also the editor of anthologies (The New Poets of England and America, and The New American Poetry, 1945–1960) as well as the poetry editor of The Paris Review from 1953 to 1962, for which he interviewed the poets Dylan Thomas, T.S. Eliot, Marianne More, and Ezra Pound. Additionally, his varied and rich publishing career spanning seventy-four years included biographies of the sculptor Henry Moore and famed baseball pitcher Dock Ellis, the memoir Life Work, as well as the text for writers Writing Well.

In his later years, Mr. Hall turned to prose, most notably essays which were published by The New Yorker. In “Out the Window,” a 2012 essay about the changes that his advancing years had brought, Hall wrote “New poems no longer come to me, with their prodigies of metaphor and assonance. Prose endures. I feel the circles grow smaller, and old age is a ceremony of losses, which is on the whole preferable to dying at forty-seven or fifty-two. When I lament and darken over my diminishments, I accomplish nothing. It’s better to sit at the window all day, pleased to watch birds, barns, and flowers. It is a pleasure to write about what I do.”


Image Credit: Bob LaPree for The New York Times

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