Donald Hall’s new memoir tells the story of his extraordinary 23-year marriage to poet Jane Kenyon, who died of leukemia in 1995 at age 47. The book is due to be released in May, but Hall will offer a sneak preview of The Best Day The Worst Day: Life with Jane Kenyon at a special event Sunday, April 24 at 3 p.m. at Plymouth State University’s Silver Cultural Arts Center. The reading is part of the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series.
Hall and Kenyon first met at the University of Michigan: Kenyon was 19 years younger than her future husband, and he was her poetry teacher. The Best Day The Worst Day is full of Hall’s recollections of his relationship with his wife and their experiences together as poets, writing in the quiet solitude of their New Hampshire farmhouse and traveling on book tours across the United States, India, Japan and China. The memoir also traces Hall’s years spent caring for Kenyon during her illness and bouts of depression.
The book is also rich with everyday moments – Kenyon’s passion for gardening, Hall’s love of baseball, the couple’s working habits, portraits of pets, friends and family. An excerpt of the book appeared recently in Poetry Magazine’s prose feature section: “What we did: we got up early in the morning. I brought Jane coffee in bed. She walked the dog as I started writing, then climbed the stairs to work at her own desk on her own poems. We had lunch. We lay down together. We rose and worked at secondary things. I read aloud to Jane; we played scoreless ping-pong; we read the mail; we worked again. We ate supper, talked, read books sitting across from each other in the living room, and went to sleep. If we were lucky the phone didn’t ring all day.”
Hall and Kenyon were true companions whose hobbies and passions complemented each other, but when it came to their poetry, they were also editors, critics and listeners who offered honest praise and suggestions for changes. Their everyday experiences – both the common and the harrowing – were inspirations for dozens of poems and poetry collections. In The Best Day The Worst Day, Hall illuminates this writing life and the way it shaped his marriage.
Donald Hall’s poetry collections include Exiles and Marriages, The Happy Man, The Painted Bed and Without: Poems, which was published on the third anniversary of Kenyon’s death. He has also written nonfiction books on baseball, the work of sculptor Henry Moore and the poet Marianne Moore, and several autobiographical works. His other writings include short stories, autobiographical works and children’s books. He has edited more than two dozen textbooks and anthologies, and has served as poetry editor for The Paris Review and the Wesleyan University Press.
Hall’s honors include the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Caldecott Medal, two Guggenheim fellowships, the Poetry Society of America’s Robert Frost Silver medal, a Lifetime Achievement award from the New Hampshire Writers and Publisher Project, the Ruth Lilly Prize for Poetry and a Pulitzer Prize nomination. Hall has also served as New Hampshire’s Poet Laureate.
In 1993, two years before his wife’s death, Hall and Kenyon were the subjects of an Emmy Award-winning Bill Moyers documentary, “A Life Together.” Hall lives in Danbury in the same farmhouse where he and Kenyon spent the majority of their marriage.
Donald Hall’s April 24 reading and book signing, part of the Eagle Pond Authors’ Series, is free to the public, but reserved tickets are required for admission. The Eagle Pond Authors’ Series is named in honor of Hall’s ancestral home.
The Eagle Pond Authors’ Series is sponsored by the Barnes and Noble Bookstore on the PSU campus. For more information or to reserve a ticket, call (603) 535-ARTS or