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Birthday Poems

"Affirmation" (On Donald Hall's Birthday)

Donald Hall pictured here with his wife, the late Jane Kenyon

Donald Hall was born on this day in 1928. As guest editor of The Best American Poetry 1989 -- the second volume in the series -- he taught me much about the making of an anthology. As a man of letters, who felt as comfortable writing a profile of Henry Moore or a sports story about the Boston Celtics as a romantic poem for Jane or an essay in literary appreciation, he proved that the life of a poet and the career of professional writer could coincide. He worked in a variety of genres and wrote for periodicals as different from one another as The Paris Review and Sports Illustrated, The Boston Globe and Yankee and showed by his example that all the writing you do helps all the other writing you do, and all the styles and forms of writing are valid: the interview, the children's story or poem, the textbook, the diatribe, the anecdote, the blessedly unself-centered memoir in which the emphasis is on Robert Frost, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Join me in saluting this masterly poet, teacher, editor, writer. -- DL


To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond's edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.

from the archives; first posted 2008

-- Donald Hall

June 01, 2020

May 21, 2020

May 06, 2020

April 29, 2020

February 21, 2020

February 20, 2020

February 13, 2020

October 20, 2019

October 14, 2019

July 24, 2019

July 19, 2019

July 16, 2019

June 10, 2019

June 09, 2019

June 01, 2019

May 31, 2019

May 21, 2019

April 11, 2019

October 20, 2018

September 07, 2018

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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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