Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Unpacking the Boxes

Donald Hall's latest book - Unpacking the Boxes - is a memoir covering various periods in the poet's life: school, Harvard, & Oxford are dealt with in turn; the first marriage is skipped over, so too the years with Jane Kenyon which were covered in his earlier The Best Day The Worst Day. Some of the childhood and family background material goes back over ground already explored in his earlier Life Work. The large gaps for both marriages give the book a strange feel - like what is left over from a piece of card when shapes have been cut from it. The last chapter deals largely with the blow-by-blow difficulties and indignities of health problems he suffered immediately preceding his appointment as U.S. poet laureate; the chapter opens with a wonderful paragraph: "When you are three years old and your socks are falling down, somebody says, "Pull up your socks, Donnie." Then you are twelve, solitary, reading books all day, then twenty-five and a new father, burping your son at two A.M. When you turn forty, divorced, your life is a passage among disasters. Then you marry again, you are happy, you turn sixty, your wife dies. Then you are eighty and your socks fall down again. No one tells you to pull them up."

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