Illness and Suffering   /   Fall 2006   /    Interviews

Interview with Donald Hall

Poet Donald Hall was teaching at the University of Michigan in 1969 when he met Jane Kenyon, a student nearly twenty years his junior. They married and, after a few years, left Ann Arbor and academic life for Hall’s ancestors’ farm in rural New Hampshire. There, they made a life centered on poetry—Hall wrote and published prolifically, and Kenyon came into her own as a poet, producing several books. In the early 1990s, Hall was treated successfully for cancer and recovered. Not long after, early in 1994, Kenyon was diagnosed with leukemia. Despite undergoing arduous treatment, including a bone-marrow transplant, she died on 22 April 1995 at home at Eagle Pond Farm; she was 47 years old. During her last days, Jane Kenyon chose the poems for her celebrated book Otherwise: New and Selected Poems (1996).


In work that grounds the idea of “telling suffering” in particular life circumstances, Hall has written movingly of Kenyon’s illness and death and his grief in two volumes of poetry, Without (1998) and The Painted Bed (2002), and in a prose memoir, The Best Day the Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon (2005). He continues to live and work at Eagle Pond Farm. He has recently published his fifteenth volume of poetry, White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems, 1946–2006. Jane Kenyon’s Collected Poems appeared in 2005.


Hall is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His many awards include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, a Caldecott Award for children’s literature, the 1990 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize.


In June 2006 Donald Hall was named Poet Laureate of the United States.


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