Best Selling Books by Donald Hall

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Life Work

release date: Mar 13, 2012
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Life Work
Distinguished poet Donald Hall reflects on the meaning of work, solitude, and love "The best new book I have read this year, of extraordinary nobility and wisdom. It will remain with me always."—Louis Begley, The New York Times "A sustained meditation on work as the key to personal happiness. . . . Life Work reads most of all like a first-person psychological novel with a poet named Donald Hall as its protagonist. . . . Hall's particular talents ultimately [are] for the memoir, a genre in which he has few living equals. In his hands the memoir is only partially an autobiographical genre. He pours both his full critical intelligence and poetic sensibility into the form."—Dana Gioia, Los Angeles Times "Hall . . . here offers a meditative look at his life as a writer in a spare and beautifully crafted memoir. Devoted to his art, Hall can barely wait for the sun to rise each morning so that he can begin the task of shaping words."—Publishers Weekly (starred review) "I [am] delighted and moved by Donald Hall's Life Work, his autobiographical tribute to sheer work--as distinguished from labor--as the most satisfying and ennobling of activities, whether one is writing, canning vegetables or playing a dung fork on a New Hampshire farm."—Paul Fussell, The Boston Globe “Donald Hall’s Life Work has been strangely gripping, what with his daily to do lists, his ruminations on the sublimating power of work. Hall has written so much about that house in New Hampshire where he lives that I’m beginning to think of it less as a place than a state of mind. I find it odd that a creative mind can work with such Spartan organization (he describes waiting for the alarm to go off at 4:45 AM, so eager is he to get to his desk) at such a mysterious activity (making a poem work) without getting in the way of itself.”—John Freeman’s blog (National Book Critics Circle Board President)

Without

release date: Jan 01, 1999
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Without
A collection of poems elegizing the author's late wife examines her suffering and death, the doctors and nurses who tried to help her, and the friends and relatives that grieved for her

The Museum of Clear Ideas

release date: Feb 24, 1994
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The Museum of Clear Ideas
“With The One Day, this is his best work, a modest, skeptical, and brave poetry that embodies something essential about this late American century.” —Harvard Review This is Donald Hall’s most advanced work, extending his poetic reach even beyond his recent volumes. Conflict dominates this book, and conflict unites it. Hall takes poetry as an instrument for revelation, whether in an elegy for a (fictional) contemporary poet, or in the title series of poems, whose form imitates the first book of the Odes of Horace. The book’s final section, “Extra Innings,” moves with poignancy to questions about the end of the game. “A stunning volume of testamentary verse . . . an often perfect American blend of rue and buoyancy, narrative verve and grace.” —The New Yorker “Donald Hall is our finest elegist. The Museum of Clear Ideas is as original, idiosyncratic, and un-museumlike a poetic work as we are likely to see for a long time to come.” —Richard Tillinghast, The New Criterion “Hall’s poems make ‘durable relics’ of late twentieth-century life in much the same way that Byron’s Don Juan does for the early nineteenth. The ‘clear ideas,’ however, are timeless.” —Beloit Poetry Journal “These are some of the darkest lines Donald Hall has ever composed. They move through aching poignancy through illness diagnosed, sorrow, and poignant revelation, yet the final chord is not one of despair.” —Robert Taylor, Boston Globe “A collection of powerful new poems . . . Hall’s voice is more mature and classically spare than ever, offering revelatory glimpses of wisdom.” —Publishers Weekly “A brilliantly inventive tour de force . . . A significant and engaging book.” —Library Journal

The Selected Poems of Donald Hall

release date: Dec 01, 2015
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The Selected Poems of Donald Hall
The former U.S. poet laureate presents the essential work from across his long and celebrated career in this sweeping collection. For decades, Donald Hall produced a body of work that established him as one of America’s most significant—and beloved—poets of his generation. Celebrated for his plainspoken yet evocative imagery and his stirring explorations of bucolic life, Hall won numerous awards, including the Robert Frost Medal, the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize, and the National Medal of Arts. When Hall reached his eighties, his health began to decline, and he announced that the ability to write poems has “abandoned” him. Looking back over his astonishingly rich body of work, Hall hand-picked his finest and most memorable poems for this final, concise, and essential volume.

The Best Day the Worst Day

release date: Nov 08, 2006
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The Best Day the Worst Day
A candid memoir of love, art, and grief from a celebrated man of letters, United States poet laureate Donald Hall In an intimate record of his twenty-three-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, Donald Hall recounts the rich pleasures and the unforeseen trials of their shared life. The couple made a home at their New England farmhouse, where they rejoiced in rituals of writing, gardening, caring for pets, and connecting with their rural community through friends and church. The Best Day the Worst Day presents a portrait of the inner moods of "the best marriage I know about," as Hall has written, against the stark medical emergency of Jane's leukemia, which ended her life in fifteen months. Between recollections of better times, Hall shares with readers the daily ordeal of Jane's dying through heartbreaking but ultimately inspiring storytelling.

The Back Chamber

release date: Sep 13, 2011
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The Back Chamber
The former US poet laureate has crafted poems full of “unexpected insights, charms, droll observations, self-mockery, and well-earned wisdom” (Rain Taxi). In The Back Chamber, Donald Hall illuminates the evocative, iconic objects of deep memory—a cowbell, a white stone perfectly round, a three-legged milking stool—that serve to foreground the rich meditations on time and mortality that run through this remarkable collection. While Hall’s devoted readers will recognize many of his long-standing preoccupations—baseball, the family farm, love, sex, and friendship—what will strike them as new is the fierce, pitiless poignancy he reveals as his own life’s end comes into view. The Back Chamber is far from being death-haunted, but rather is lively, irreverent, erotic, hilarious, ironic, and sly—full of the life-affirming energy that has made Donald Hall one of America’s most popular and enduring poets. “For the reader boiling in triple-digit SoCal heat at the end of the summer, Donald Hall’s The Back Chamber: Poems arrives like a sudden cloudburst and shower of cooling rain . . . A former U.S. poet laureate, Hall has always had this elemental power—to vividly evoke his particular New England climate and geography so that it can’t be mistaken for any other—but what is more unexpected in this new collection of poems, his 16th, is passion.” —Los Angeles Times “The former U.S. poet laureate reaches his 20th book in unmistakably honest form, aggressively plain and unfailingly open about sex, old age, suicide, recovery, the friendship of poets, the business of poetry, dogs, New Hampshire, and baseball.” —Publishers Weekly

Unpacking the Boxes

release date: Sep 11, 2009
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Unpacking the Boxes
Donald Hall’s remarkable life in poetry — a career capped by his appointment as U.S. poet laureate in 2006 — comes alive in this richly detailed, self-revealing memoir. Hall’s invaluable record of the making of a poet begins with his childhood in Depression-era suburban Connecticut, where he first realized poetry was “secret, dangerous, wicked, and delicious,” and ends with what he calls “the planet of antiquity,” a time of life dramatically punctuated by his appointment as poet laureate of the United States. Hall writes eloquently of the poetry and books that moved and formed him as a child and young man, and of adolescent efforts at poetry writing — an endeavor he wryly describes as more hormonal than artistic. His painful formative days at Exeter, where he was sent like a naive lamb to a high WASP academic slaughter, are followed by a poetic self-liberation of sorts at Harvard. Here he rubs elbows with Frank O’Hara, John Ashbery, and Edward Gorey, and begins lifelong friendships with Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, and George Plimpton. After Harvard, Hall is off to Oxford, where the high spirits and rampant poetry careerism of the postwar university scene are brilliantly captured. At eighty, Hall is as painstakingly honest about his failures and low points as a poet, writer, lover, and father as he is about his successes, making Unpacking the Boxes — his first book since being named poet laureate — both revelatory and tremendously poignant.

Essays After Eighty

release date: Jul 01, 2014
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Essays After Eighty
From a former Poet Laureate, a new collection of essays delivering a gloriously unexpected view from the vantage point of very old age Donald Hall has lived a remarkable life of letters, a career capped by a National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president. Now, in the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of very old age, he is writing searching essays that startle, move, and delight. In the transgressive and horrifyingly funny “No Smoking,” he looks back over his lifetime, and several of his ancestors’ lifetimes, of smoking unfiltered cigarettes, packs of them every day. Hall paints his past: “Decades followed each other — thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with a total change of life, sixty extended the bliss of fifty . . .” And, poignantly, often joyfully, he limns his present: “When I turned eighty and rubbed testosterone on my chest, my beard roared like a lion and gained four inches.” Most memorably, Hall writes about his enduring love affair with his ancestral Eagle Pond Farm and with the writing life that sustains him, every day: “Yesterday my first nap was at 9:30 a.m., but when I awoke I wrote again.”

Claims for Poetry

release date: Jan 01, 1982
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Claims for Poetry
A collection of essays by contemporary American poets on the subject of their art

Ox-cart Man

release date: Jan 01, 1983
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Ox-cart Man
Describes the day-to-day life of an early nineteenth-century New England family throughout the changing seasons.
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