Poetry Friday: The Legacy and Spirit of Donald Hall (and a bizarre chain of events)

It is truly amazing the way some things in our lives just all come together, as if they were meant to be.

On June 23, 2018, we lost one of the most important New Hampshire poets of the 20th century, Donald Hall. Among his many accolades, Hall was a former U.S. Poet Laureate and New Hampshire State Poet Laureate, and received the National Medal of Arts in 2010.

He had lived most recently in Wilmot, NH, about 35 minutes from where I live, but I never met him; he was rather reclusive in his final years, and while many knew where he lived, few ever saw him. But he continued writing very nearly up to the point he passed, a career stretching some 60 years or so.

Living in the Mt. Kearsarge area of the Granite State, Hall was often inspired by life on his farm, the wildlife around it, and the mountain that overlooked it:

“Mount Kearsarge”

Great blue mountain! Ghost.
I look at you 
from the porch of the farmhouse
where I watched you all summer…
(You can read the entire poem here)

Where am I going with this?

Well, you see, shortly after Hall’s death, Encircle Publications of Maine decided to publish a poetry anthology to celebrate his legacy, and put out a call to established New England poets to submit original works that were either inspired by Hall’s work or in some way reflected his spirit.

Being a New Hampshire boy who was not only very familiar with Hall but also lived in the same geographic area from which Hall drew much of his inspiration, I decided to submit a poem I had written about six years ago, titled “Stone-Kicking.”

I first began forming the lines of the poem just a mile away from my house, as I walked along a dirt road one autumn. The words, “I kick my dreams like stones in the road” coalesced in my head, and I knew right then I had a poem that needed to be written…which I began doing as soon as I got home.

Fast forward to today, I have learned that my poem was accepted – and will be published in the book, Except for Love: New England Poets inspired by Donald Hall (Encircle Pub, 2019), scheduled for release on June 23, 2019, exactly one year since his passing. To say I’m honored and thrilled to be part of such an important book is an understatement.

Oh, and how does all this relate to what I said at the beginning of this post?

The very road that inspired my poem…with Mt. Kearsarge in the distance.

That’s right. I was inspired to write a poem – a poem that will be included in a book celebrating Donald Hall – while walking along a dirt road that lay in the presence of the very mountain that is synonymous with Hall himself! Call it Fate, call it coincidence, call it Divine Intervention; I had no idea the significance of what was doing, those six years ago.

Yet, here we are.

I’ll be sure to share more news of the book as we get closer to the publication date. For now, if you’re looking for more poetry, head Down Under – where my Aussie friend, Kathryn Apel, is hosting today’s complete Poetry Friday roundup!

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Ordering personalized signed copies online?
Oh, yes, you can!


  Coming July 2, 2019!

You can purchase personalized signed copies of Flashlight Night, (Boyds Mills Press, 2017), Don’t Ask a Dinosaur (Pow! Kids Books, 2018), and nearly ALL of the books or anthologies I’ve been part of!

Just click the cover of whichever book you want and send the good folks at MainStreet BookEnds in Warner, NH a note requesting the signature and to whom I should make it out to. (alternatively, you can log onto my website and do the same thing) They’ll contact me, I’ll stop by and sign it for you, and then they’ll ship it. Try doing that with those big online booksellers! (Plus, you’ll be helping to support local book-selling – and wouldn’t that make you feel good?)

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Thank you to everyone for your support!

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34 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: The Legacy and Spirit of Donald Hall (and a bizarre chain of events)

    1. He received many honors, indeed, Joy; although the Caldecott is given to the illustrator, it was certainly a significant honor. But as far as the royalties are concerned, he was already writing and being published well before that came out – I’d not heard that they had any influence on his professional life.

      Like

  1. jheitman22

    The lesson here is: if you feel a poem coming on, write it down & work it out! Congratulations on your poem’s publication. What a great honor !

    Like

  2. Janet F.

    Oh, Matt. Congratulations, so very happy for you, but not in the least surprised. I have always enjoyed your poetry.
    We (hubby and I) have connections (loose, very loose) to Donald Hall and New Hampshire. I can’t wait to see this book and am thrilled for you to have one of your poems in it.

    I found this article, and assume you have read it plus the entire memoir it is from. My husband went to PEA and his parents lived in Hamden. So there you go. We would see things in the PEA magazine from time to time about Donald Hall. https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/books/review/Stevenson-t.html
    I also found this other pretty interesting interview with him. His commentary on his critique group (and what a crowd) and description of how long it took to write a poem is edifying, oh my. https://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=3148&context=iowareview
    And if you won’t mind indulging me, the two Dons from UNH I adored Donald Graves and Don Murray. They changed teaching for me. I adored when I could have a real writing workshop and time to spend on it in my 5th gr. class. I am fairly positive that Don Graves somehow, “Introduced me” to Donald Hall. https://www.fosters.com/news/20170611/unh-to-preserve-legacy-of-don-murray So happy you are writing and your work is being shared. Lovely.

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    1. Thank you so much for sharing this, Janet! I’ve appreciated your support for many years now. and am grateful for it. I have to say, I especially liked that interview you shared – Hall’s commentary on workshops and criticism from folks like Bly and Kinnell was simultaneously insightful and hilarious!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Matt, congratulations on the poem that started with stone kicking and a seed of an idea. You never know when the muse is going to walk alongside you. These words in Hall’s poem spoke to me, “you are clear to me
    like the memory of one day.”

    Like

  4. margaretsmn

    Congratulations! I’ve been inspired by this post to continue my commitment to write a poem every day because it’s in the practice that we are ready. Thanks.

    Like

  5. Pingback: Poetry Friday: poetic paths | Reflections on the Teche

  6. lindabaie

    I love reading ALL the story, Matt. It’s a poem you won’t forget, made special by your own personal connection to this wonderful poet. Congratulations!

    Like

  7. authoryvonafast

    Hey Matt. I read your blog and your comment on David L. Harrison’s blog. We’re all on this journey together. I loved Flashlight Night but my my library doesn’t have your Dinosaur book. I see you collaborated with Deborah Bruss on that one. I contribute to a blog, Wonder of Words, with 5 other writers. Could you tell me a little about the collaboration process – why did you decide to do it, how did it work? As picture book writers we collaborate with illustrators – but why collaborate with another author? I’m thinking of writing my next blog about this. If you could email me at writeyvona@gmail.com that would be great!

    Like

  8. Linda Mitchell

    Matt, congratulations! This poem has a specialness about it. Thank you for sharing its origins with us–including us in the special. I feel that blue ghost in you…not haunting but strong.

    Like

  9. Joyce Ray

    I am happy for you, Matt! Having your poem in that anthology is indeed an honor. It is a mystery why we start writing when and later find out there was a reason. Serendipity, Divine intervention – take your pick! I missed the call, sad for me. That will teach me to pay attention to my Encircle emails!

    Like

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