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Donald Hall | White Apples and the Taste of Stone

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A few of Hall’s poems run along the warm and fuzzy side of things, but there are also pieces that are distressing.


061853721xHoughton Mifflin; 448 pgs; $30

In White Apples and the Taste of Stone, Donald Hall, the newly anointed and 14th U.S. Poet Laureate, has a chance to collect some of the more meaningful and favorite poems he has written over the last 60 years. This anthology covers a lot of ground, but two of the recurring themes are the traditional dual muse of pets: death and love. Plenty of the poems are memorable, but there are standouts, like “Love is Like Sounds,” which gives us lines like: “Late snow fell this early morning of spring./ At dawn I rose from bed, restless, and looked/ Out of my window, to wonder if there the snow/ Fell outside your bedroom, and you watching.” Such language is hard to resist.

A few of Hall’s poems run along the warm and fuzzy side of things, but there are also pieces that are distressing. Especially chilling is “By the Exeter River,” which is a short dialogue between a son and his aging father. The son keeps saying to his father, “Let’s get off to bed, come up to bed,” and his father, under the momentary grasp of senility, mentions to his son: “And Sally, poor Sally I reckon is dead.” His son responds, “Was she your old sweetheart, old Father, my Dad?” to which his father replies, “We drowned the baby. I remember we did.”

So much of this book goes from here to there, from traffic to tables, from adultery to speeches and baseball, and yet, it all comes together to create a wonderful anthology from this fabulous poet. | Kaylen Hoffman

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