Donald Hall is that rarest of literary breeds: a poet popular in his lifetime. His public persona, cultivated with decades of memorable poems and diverting essays, was burnished by appearances on public television and radio—Hall and his second wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, are the subject of a full-length 1993 PBS documentary, A Life Together—a successful stint as the nation’s poet laureate, and a 2010 visit to the White House, where he was awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama. In addition to over twenty collections of verse, he has produced no fewer than six memoirs, alongside numerous children’s books and biographies, including one on the British modernist sculptor Henry Moore. When I interviewed Hall in 2009, I asked him to reveal the secret of a life well lived. He thought for a moment then repeated what Moore had told him decades before for a New Yorker profile, in short...


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