In his introduction to these selections of his prose and poetry, Donald Hall says, "It's good to read these pieces aloud. The poems are surely written for saying, but my paragraphs also must attend to cadence and rhythm . . . for the eye's ear or for the ear alone." It's refreshing to hear reaffirmation of what audiophiles have always known: that prose, as well as poetry, is enhanced by reading aloud. Furthermore, it's even more gratifying when this is said by a writer of 30 books of prose and poetry that have won almost every award going. What Donald Hall says is not too surprising. When you listen to these selections, you realize how close his prose is to poetry. (In fact, on these tapes it is sometimes difficult to tell which is which.) Certainly the combination of prose and poetry is a winner in this recording. Including excerpts from six nonfiction books (STRING TOO SHORT TO BE SAVED, SEASONS AT EAGLE POND, FATHERS PLAYING CATCH WITH THEIR SONS, HERE AT EAGLE POND, LIFE WORK, PRINCIPAL PRODUCTS OF PORTUGAL) and five collections of poetry (THE ONE DAY, OLD AND NEW POEMS, THE MUSEUM OF CLEAR IDEAS, THE OLD LIFE, UNCOLLECTED POEMS, it's an excellent introduction to the work of a writer many listeners may want to explore further. Since his complete work is mainly autobiographical--even his poetry--the readings present a portrait of Donald Hall the man, as well as Donald Hall the author. He emerges as a sensitive, intelligent human being with a remarkable appreciation for natural beauty, for the joy of enduring love and for the ordinary pleasures of a working life. The word "working" is central here. These tapes are almost a paean to the joy of work: his dedication as a poet who gets up every morning at five in the morning to write; the endless, backbreaking labor of his grandfather and grandmother on their beloved New Hampshire farm; even the dogged training, year in and year out, of professional baseball players. Not surprisingly, all of Donald Hall's ideas gain power when he discusses them in his own voice. He reads his own poems well, better than most poets, but conceivably a professional narrator might have given a more effective performance. Perhaps such a narrator could add drama to the action, smooth over rough passages (avoiding the occasional lapses into what sounds like the intonation of sacred text), deepen the intensity of the poetry with perfected eloquence. Perhaps. On the other hand, it may be that Donald Hall's own voice speaks so directly from the heart that no polished narration could be as moving as he is. Let the poet speak. J.C. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine
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