Thursday, June 15, 2006

I am thrilled that Donald Hall was named the new US Poet Laureate. Not only is he a brilliant poet, he is also an outspoken critic of the Bush administration. Given his gadfly nature, it's quite amazing that he was offered the position!

When I was a student at Antioch, I volunteered to pick Donald Hall up at the airport (he taught a seminar and gave a reading at one of our residencies). This was before 9/11, so I was able to go straight to the gate to meet him. I was expecting the clean-cut guy I had seen in his author photo, so when he showed up looking like a mountain man or a sage with a great shaggy beard and wild hair, I almost didn't recognize him. Grief must have undone him, I imagined (his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, had died four years before), but he turned out to be very jolly and jocular, ribald even. He packed a lifetime of storytelling into our fifteen minute ride from the airport to the hotel--he regaled me with lovely tales of Jane Kenyon, but he also shared some sordid details about the 20-something year old dancer he was dating (he was around 70 at the time). A truly unforgettable ride! It was great to reconnect with him a couple of years later when he read at the Riverside Library. I can't wait to see how he's going to shake things up as Poet Laureate.

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