Donald Hall Passes Away – Poetry News June 25th

We begin the week here on My Poetic Side with the sad news that the former US poet laureate Donald Hall has passed away at the age of 89.

Donald Hall Passes Away at Age 89

The prolific, award-winning poet Donald Hall has passed away at the age of 89.  His death was confirmed on Sunday by his daughter.

Hall died at his home in New Hampshire. He had been receiving care in a hospice for some time before this. In the early 1990’s Hall had been diagnosed with Liver cancer, but he recovered and his cancer went into remission.

Born Donald Andrew Hall in 1928, he was an only child. He spent many of his summers during his childhood on his grandparent’s farm at Eagle Pond. It was whilst he was attending the local high school that he developed an interest in poetry; writing poems and sending them to national magazines. At the age of 16 he went to the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, it was here that he met Robert Frost and got a taste for the appreciation that others had for his poetry.

Hall attended Harvard College where his classmates included a number of poets who were also to become famous later on; Robert Bly, Adrienne Rich, Frank O’Hara and John Ashbery. He wrote his honours thesis on the Irish poet W.B. Yeats and his stylistic development. From Harvard he went to Oxford where he received a fellowship. It wasn’t until he returned to Harvard as a junior fellow in 1955 however that he began to publish his works in earnest.

During his very lengthy career Hall authored over 40 books, around half of which were poetry volumes. In 2015 he published what he decided was to be his last collection of poems “The Selected Poems of Donald Hall”. He did not, however, cease to write entirely. Shortly before this, he published “Essays After Eighty” and what will now be his final book “Notes Nearing Ninety” is due to be published this summer.

Hall also wrote and edited a number of anthologies, biographies, children’s books and plays, his career in the literary world spanned over 74 years. He won several prizes and honours for his poetry during that time; including the 2012 National Medal of Arts and was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Whilst his poetry style varied greatly over the years there were several themes that can be seen repeated through his work over the years, death, in particular, seemed to haunt him, that of his parents, his grandparents and his second wife the poet Jane Kenyon who sadly passed away at a young age of just 47 as a result of Leukaemia. Hall never really got over her death.

From 2006 to 2007 Hall served as the US Poet Laureate.

Donald Hall is survived by his to children from his first marriage. Phillipa Smith and Andrew Hall; five grandchildren and one great grandchild

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