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In Memory of New England Poet and US Poet Laureate Donald Hall

By Helene Atwan

Donald Hall
Donald Hall

Like most Americans who care about poetry and literature, I was saddened to learn that Donald Hall died this weekend. We were privileged to publish two of his books of prose: Life Work and Principle Products of Portugal.
Life Work and Principal Products of Portugal

When I first took over as director of the press in 1995, a poster for Life Work was proudly displayed in our offices, and it made me even happier to be a part of the press. Later, I was fortunate to meet Don and to chat with him about projects, on and off, though never quite lucky enough to publish any new work. His work is a gift to us all. I think often about one line of his, often quoted by a mutual friend, that resonates especially now: Work, love, build a house, and die. But build a house. The house that Donald Hall built is a mansion with room to embrace all readers. He will be missed.

Here’s how others are remembering Donald Hall:

“Mr. Hall was one of the leading poets of his generation, frequently mentioned in the company of Robert Bly, James Wright and Galway Kinnell. In evoking a bucolic New England past and expressing a deep veneration of nature, he used simple and direct language, though often to surreal effect.”
—David Kirby, The New York Times

“Hall said he saw no reason to spend life writing poems ‘unless your goal is to write great poems.’”
—Jennifer Hijazi, PBS NewsHour

“Some poets come to their art in youth, but few as early as Donald Hall. He made up his mind to be a poet when he was 14, began to write poems several hours a day, and never wavered from his calling in a long, prolific life.”
—David Mehegan and Joseph P. Kahn, The Boston Globe


About the Author 

Helene AtwanHelene Atwan has been director of Beacon Press since 1995. She has been reading poetry all her life. Follow her on Twitter at @hatwan.