The Back Chamber
By Donald Hall
(Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Hardcover, 9780547645858, 96pp.)
Publication Date: September 13, 2011
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The first full-length volume of poems in a decade by the former poet laureate of the United States
In The Back Chamber, Donald Hall illuminates the evocative, iconic objects of deep memory—a cowbell, a white stone perfectly round, a three-legged milking stool—that serve to foreground the rich meditations on time and mortality that run through his remarkable new collection. While Hall’s devoted readers will recognize many of his long-standing preoccupations—baseball, the family farm, love, sex, and friendship—what will strike them as new is the fierce, pitiless poignancy he reveals as his own life’s end comes into view. The Back Chamber is far from being death-haunted, but rather is lively, irreverent, erotic, hilarious, ironic, and sly—full of the life-affirming energy that has made Donald Hall one of America’s most popular and enduring poets.
DONALD HALL, poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007, has received the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in poetry, the Lenore Marshall Award, the 1990 Frost Medal from the Poetry Society of America, and the Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
The 83-year-old former poet laureate reflects on how life has changed as he's grown older. "My body causes me trouble when I cross the room, but when I am sitting down writing, I am in my heaven â?? my old heaven," he says. More at NPR.org
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"For the reader boiling in triple-digit SoCal heat at the end of the summer, Donald Hall's "The Back Chamber: Poems" arrives like a sudden cloudburst and shower of cooling rain. . .A former U.S. poet laureate, Hall has always had this elemental power — to vividly evoke his particular New England climate and geography so that it can't be mistaken for any other — but what is more unexpected in this new collection of poems, his 16th, is passion."--LA Times"If the poems in it are relatively somber, they’re equally witty, consummately well-crafted." --Booklist, STARRED review "Featuring moving, amusing, musical poems about love, aging, and baseball, this work will have broad appeal and is recommended for all collections."—Library Journal "The former U.S. poet laureate reaches his 20th book in unmistakably honest form..." --Publishers Weekly