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The Selected Poems of Donald Hall

Poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, Donald Hall has compiled more than 70 of his favorite poems in this collection. Arranged in chronological order, these poems reflect the changes in his writing over the course of his life. Hall writes, "As I read my poems in chronological order, I am aware of changing sounds and shapes. I move from rhymed stanzas to varieties of free verse, and later... go back to meter again." 

Hall's poems speak of life, of love, of nature and the intertwining of these elements as he moved from boyhood to adulthood to old age. Many of his later poems center on his love for his wife, Jane Kenyon, and the subsequent despair he felt at her death. These poems in particular haunt the reader long after the page has been turned. Hall juxtaposes the beauty of yellow daffodils with a withering body in "Letter with No Address," and recalls the blue coat his wife wore as she walked the dog, only to realize that the coat is just a remnant of his imagination in "Weeds and Peonies." Short lines carry powerful words, as in "After Three Years," where Hall writes, "You think that their/ dying is the worst/ thing that could happen./ Then they stay dead." Other, longer poems tell miniature stories, such as "Great Day in the Cows' House" or "Ox Cart Man." Diverse and multifaceted, Hall's poetry reflects the complexity of life in all its good and bad parts. --Lee E. Cart, freelance writer and book reviewer