The Selected Poems of Donald Hall

The Selected Poems of Donald Hall

by Donald Hall


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Former poet laureate Donald Hall selects the essential work from a moving and brilliant life in poetry.

Long-Listed for the 2016 National Book Award

Donald Hall was an American master, one of the nation’s most beloved and accomplished poets. Here, in his eighties, having taken stock of the body of his work—rigorous, gorgeous verse that is the result of seventy years of “ambition and pleasure”—he strips it down. 

The Selected Poems of Donald Hall reflects the poet’s handpicked, concise selection, showcasing work rich with humor and eros and “a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines” (Billy Collins).

From the enduring “My Son My Executioner” to “Names of Horses” to “Without,” Donald Hall’s best poems deliver “a banquet in the mouth” (Charles Simic) and an “aching elegance” (Baltimore Sun). For the first-time reader or an old friend, these are, above all others, the poems to read, reread, and remember.

“However wrenching [Hall’s poems] may be from line to line, they tell a story that is essentially reassuring: art and love are compatible, genius is companionable, and people stand by one another in the end” (New York Times Book Review). 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781328745606
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 11/07/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 497,423
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.80(h) x 0.50(d)

About the Author

DONALD HALL (1928-2018) served as poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president.

Read an Excerpt

My Son My Executioner
My son, my executioner,
    I take you in my arms,
Quiet and small and just astir
    And whom my body warms.
Sweet death, small son, our instrument
    Of immortality,
Your cries and hungers document
    Our bodily decay.
We twenty-five and twenty-two,
    Who seemed to live forever,
Observe enduring life in you
    And start to die together.

The Sleeping Giant
a hill in Connecticut
The whole day long, under the walking sun
That poised an eye on me from its high floor,
Holding my toy beside the clapboard house
I looked for him, the summer I was four.
I was afraid the waking arm would break
From the loose earth and rub against his eyes
A fist of trees, and the whole country tremble
In the exultant labor of his rise;
Then he with giant steps in the small streets
Would stagger, cutting off the sky, to seize
The roofs from house and home because we had
Covered his shape with dirt and planted trees;
And then kneel down and rip with fingernails
A trench to pour the enemy Atlantic
Into our basin, and the water rush,
With the streets full and all the voices frantic.
That was the summer I expected him.
Later the high and watchful sun instead
Walked low behind the house, and school began,
And winter pulled a sheet over his head.

The Lone Ranger
Anarchic badlands spread without a road,
And from the river west no turned-up loam;
No farmer prayed for rain, no settler’s horse
But one time blundered riderless to home.
Unfriendly birds would gather in the air,
A circling kind of tombstone. As for the law,
No marshal lived for long unless he could
Defeat his mirror’d image to the draw.
So now he rode upon a silver horse.
He stood for law and order. Anarchy
Like flood or fire roared through every gate
But he and Tonto hid behind a tree
And when the bandits met to split the loot,
He blocked the door. With silver guns he shot
The quick six-shooters from their snatching hands
And took them off to jail and let them rot.
For him the badlands were his mother’s face.
He made an order where all order lacked
From Hanged Boy Junction to the Rio Grande.
Why did he wear a mask? He was abstract.

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