Former Poet Laureate and U-M Press Author Donald Hall dies at 89

by Charles Watkinson on June 25, 2018

Donald Hall’s passing not only marks a great loss for the world of poetry but for the University of Michigan community. He was a member of the University’s faculty for 17 years and the author or editor of multiple Press books. His influence continues as the following tribute from Ariel Everitt shows. Ariel is a current U-M student in English and Creative Writing and is a marketing intern at the Press this summer:

“Donald Hall, admirer of the rural and one of the last masters of his poetic generation, died Saturday night at Eagle Pond Farm in Wilmot, New Hampshire, his childhood summer oasis and personal writer’s sanctuary in older age. Hall’s journeys in writing began at the age of twelve, and came to form his own personal heaven, inextricably entwined with his personal Eden of bucolic Eagle Pond. Over the course of his life, he penned over 40 books, transitioning from poetry to a diversity of plays, children’s books, short stories, and essays on the aged life.  His writing often focused on such passions as nature and baseball. Hall, not born a rich man, took pride in turning to those topics he most genuinely cared about to support himself both emotionally and financially, and made a career and a life of them.

The very title of one of his books from the University of Michigan Press, Goatfoot Milktongue Twinbird, illuminates Hall’s talent for evoking surreal beauty through the use of the simple, the natural, and the mundane. In this way, Hall fostered a quiet reverence for nature and the times and places past. As a poet, Hall paid homage always to those who came before him in the genre. He closely tended the rhythm and rhyme of his language as one would a garden, even after migrating from more traditional forms to free verse.

Hall found creative freedom in his move from academia to the country and treasured this transformation. His later work was so deeply fueled and made possible by the tranquil beauty of New Hampshire rural life that he formed the Hall-Kenyon Poetry Prize, which will continue to honor poets of the state he so loved.

“Everything important always begins from something trivial,” Hall said of the origins of his work in a 1991 interview with the Paris Review. Important his writing certainly was, and its influence was shown in part by the many awards Hall earned, including the National Medal of the Arts in 2010. Hall will be missed, but his tremendous and unshakable impact on the American eye toward poetry and prose will ensure he is not forgotten, for as long as the so-called death of poetry, as he once put it, is itself dead.”

You can read Donald Hall’s full obituary at or

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