Conversations with Donald Hall, ed. by John Martin-Joy, Allan Cooper and Richard Rohfritch (University Press of Mississippi, 2021)
The picture on the front cover of this new volume of interviews with Donald Hall is not the close-up of his long facial hair and noble wrinkles gracing Essays After Eighty. Here his beard is clipped, his glasses are on, and his smile suggests there are still many things to come. But this face makes the collection no less intimate. Its various re-prints of interviews with other poets and friends, including Liam Rector, Steven Ratiner, and his Paris Review interview with Peter A. Snitt, are testament to what the editors call his ‘conversational art’. (Also included is an invaluable chronology and extensive bibliography compiled by Richard Rohfrith.) It will come as no surprise to those familiar with Hall that the topics covered are various. In an interview with Mike Pride, he laments the use of the dead metaphor and assesses the state of local journalism. With John Martin-Joy he talks candidly about depression and Jane Kenyon’s poetry. Perhaps the most eye-catching, however, is an interview with poet Anne Loecher: ‘“It’s about Orgasm; It’s Not about a Musk Ox”: An Interview with Former Poet Laureate Donald Hall’. Though in equal parts truth and absurdity, the title offers an insight into his legacy. The interview contains nothing at all about his former life as a laureate or his civic duties. He talks instead about sex, death, parents, and his deep uncertainty about his reputation and exactly ...
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