Monday, December 16, 2013

Donald Hall*

Donald Hall served in 2006-2007 as the Poet Laureate of the United States — a post recently held by such poets as Billy Collins, W.S. Merwin and Philip Levine. At a young age Hall decided that he would become a poet. He also decided to be an atheist, but he and his wife of twenty three years, the poet Jane Kenyon, experienced the life of faith through the community in New Hampshire where they settled.

After Jane's death from leukemia, Hall expressed his loss through his poetry book, Without (1998), as he continues to often do, right down to in his most recent collection The Back Chamber (2011). In a 2005 article "The Third Thing" in Poetry Magazine he speaks insightfully of their life together, and briefly of the significance of the South Danby Christian Church in their lives. Although his perspectives may not always seem consistent with a life of discipleship, Donald Hall's poems arise from deep reflection and honesty.

This first poem comes from his newest collection, The Back Chamber. The second one is from his earlier collection, Old and New Poems.


When I see the cradle rocking
What is it I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
--------Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
--------At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
--------Horror vacui.

A Grace

God, I know nothing, my sense is all nonsense,
And fear of You begins intelligence:
Does it end there? For sexual love, for food,
For books and birch trees I claim gratitude,
But when I grieve over the unripe dead
My grief festers, corrupted into dread,
And I know nothing. Give us our daily bread.

*This is the second Kingdom Poets post about Donald Hall: first post

Entry written by D.S. Martin. His new poetry collection, Conspiracy of Light: Poems Inspired by the Legacy of C.S. Lewis, is available from Wipf & Stock as is his earlier award-winning collection, Poiema.