EN 240: Introduction to Poetry
February 26th, 2015
Donald Hall is considered one of the major American poets of his generation. His use of simple and direct language creates an imagery that’s raw and beautiful. His passion for nature reflects in his poems and creates a nostalgic tone to them. Hall’s poems are very personal and most of them describe life changing moments or experiences he has encountered. Through his word choice, stanzaic structure, and metaphor one can see how Hall’s poems describe things that everyone experiences which makes it very relatable. Halls depicts a beautiful place in “Mount Kearsarge” that speaks about change. Every now and then he recalls the memory of the blue mountain and haze. He seems to have a grim perspective on life and he also seems to be very preoccupied with death. Throughout the poem the reader can see the struggle between letting go and experiencing a big change. The way he describes the poem it seems as if he’s referring to something that he’s having a hard time accepting. This thought preoccupies him, but he knows something is coming and there’s nothing he can do about it such as the idea of getting old. At the end of the poem he states that what’s happening is inevitable and reluctantly he accepts death.
I will not rock on this porch
when I am old. I turn my back on you,
Kearsage, I close
my eyes, and you rise inside me,
“The Ship Pounding” seems to be about Donald’s wife and her battle with cancer. The poem starts with him making his way to the hospital elevators and asking the nurses how his wife, Jane, is doing and how she made out while staying overnight. Hall refers to the other patients as “passengers” in his poem. The passengers on this voyage
wore masks or cannulae
or dangles devices that dripped
chemicals into their wrists.
I believed that the ship
traveled to a harbor
of breakfast, work, and love. (10-16)
Hall refers to them as passengers on a ship because it seems like they’re all on a journey that’s taking them to the same place. He sees that in the hospital there’s love and nurture. Hall mentions grave helpers who tend at night which may represent nurses tending to people that are close to their death. He depicts his wife’s infusion and her being bald and how she’s battling with bone marrow cancer. As I listened in case Jane called
for help, or spoke in delirium,
ready to make the agitated
drive to Emergency again
for readmission to the huge
vessel that heaves water month
after month, without leaving
port, without moving a knot,
without arrival or destination,
it’s great engines pounding. (25-34)
The way he ends his poem is a metaphor. The ship is a metaphor of his struggle with his wife’s cancer. He’s saying that he does not know where the ship will take them and when it will end. All he knows is that it’s a journey and that he will always be there for his wife. This poem is very personal and realistic due to the fact that Donald Hall and his wife, Jane are both cancer survivors. They both battled cancer at different points in their lives. They were both supportive of each other and they both embarked on a journey that was unknown to them. In “Affirmation” he talks about growing old, loss, and different types of women. He describes about losing a grandfather and how it puts everything in perspective. He describes the different women in unusual ways. The women he refers to are in different stages of life and what they bring to his life. If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand. (12-20)
The reader can see how Donald describes how certain women are made for specific moments in life. He suggests that if one wants their love to...
Cited: Hall, Donald. Interview with Elizabeth Farmsworth. The MacNeil/
Leherer Newshour. Public Broadcasting System. Films for
The Humanities and Sciences, 2007. DVD.
Legro, Tom, ed. PBS NEWSHOUR. N.p., 21 Dec. 2009. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.
Poetry Foundation. Poetry Magazine, n.d. Web. 24 Feb. 2015.
Poets.Org. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2015. .
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