July 12 , 2008




You might expect the fact of dying – the dying of a beloved wife and fellow poet – to make for a bleak and lonely tale. But Donald Hall's poignant and courageous poetry, facing that dread fact, involves us all: the magnificent, humorous, and gifted woman, Jane Kenyon, who suffered and died; the doctors and nurses who tried but failed to save her; the neighbors, friends, and relatives who grieved for her; the husband who sat by her while she lived and afterward sat in their house alone with his pain, self-pity, and fury; and those of us who till now had nothing to do with it. As Donald Hall writes, "Remembered happiness is agony; so is remembered agony." Without will touch every feeling reader, for everyone has suffered loss and requires the fellowship of elegy. In the earth's oldest poem, when Gilgamesh howls of the death of Enkidu, a grieving reader of our own time may feel a kinship, across the abyss of four thousand years, with a Sumerian king. In Without Donald Hall speaks to us all of grief, as a poet lamenting the death of a poet, as a husband mourning the loss of a wife. Without is Hall's greatest and most honorable achievement – his give and testimony, his lament and his celebration of loss and of love.
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