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September 20, 2022


I second your salute to Donald Hall-- and commend you for appending "Affirmation" to it. The poem may be the most radical and incisive of his entire oeuvre. As the testament of an aging man approaching death and dissolution, the poem all but dares us to deny its contention that "the end" is anything less than the loss of "everything."

Although Hall called himself Christian, this strikes me as an unabashed, perhaps even scornful refutation of any notion of redemption, much less heavenly resurrection. (That mud-delicious axis is a master-stroke.) What poet has been more existentially honest? And yet the poem is offered as an affirmation! In a way I can't quite understand, I find that convincing and oddly consoling.

Don was a mentor & dear friend. See "My Debt to Donald Hall and the Gaiety of Without" in the Michigan Quarterly Review (Winter 2018) and on my website

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"Lively and affectionate" Publishers Weekly


I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark

from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman

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