Librarian of Congress James H. Billington has announced the appointment of Donald Hall to be the Library's 14th Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry.
Hall will take up his duties in the fall, opening the Library's annual literary series in October with a reading of his work. He will also be a featured speaker at the Library of Congress National Book Festival poetry pavilion on Saturday, Sept. 30, on the National Mall in Washington.
Hall succeeds Ted Kooser as Poet Laureate and joins a long line of distinguished poets who have served in the position, including most recently Louise Glűck, Billy Collins, Stanley Kunitz, Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.
On making the appointment, Billington said, "Donald Hall is one of America's most distinctive and respected literary figures. For more than 50 years, he has written beautiful poetry on a wide variety of subjects that are often distinctly American and conveyed with passion."
Hall has published 15 books of poetry, beginning with "Exiles and Marriages" in 1955. Earlier this year, he brought out "White Apples and the Taste of Stone" (Houghton Mifflin), a selection of poems 1946-2006. In 2005 he published "The Best Day The Worst Day," a memoir of his marriage to the poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995. Among his children's books, "Ox-Cart Man" won the Caldecott Medal. Among his many books of prose are his essays on poetry, "Breakfast Served Any Time All Day" (2003).
For his poems he has received the Lenore Marshall/Nation Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award and the Ruth Lilly Prize for Poetry. He has also received two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. He is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters.
Hall was born in Connecticut in 1928. He was educated at Harvard, Oxford and Stanford universities and taught at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. For the past 30 years he has lived on an old family farm in rural New Hampshire, in the house where his grandmother and his mother were born. He has two children and five grandchildren.
Dana Gioia, himself a poet and chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, characterized Hall's selection as "long-overdue recognition for one of America's greatest and most-admired men of letters."
Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate, in an April 16, 2006, Washington Post review of Hall's latest work, "White Apples and the Taste of Stone," said, "Hall has long been placed in the Frostian tradition of the plainspoken rural poet. His reliance on simple, concrete diction and the no-nonsense sequence of the declarative sentence gives his poems steadiness and imbues them with a tone of sincere authority. It is a kind of simplicity that succeeds in engaging the reader in the first few lines."
The Library's Poetry and Literature Center is the home of the Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry, a position that has existed since 1936, when the late Archer M. Huntington endowed the Chair of Poetry at the Library of Congress. Since then many of the nation's most eminent poets have served as Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress and, after the passage of Public Law 99-194 (Dec. 20, 1985), as Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry. The Poet Laureate suggests authors to read in the annual poetry and literary series and plans other special literary events during the reading season.
The Library's poetry and literature series is the oldest in the Washington area and among the oldest in the United States. These readings, lectures, symposia and occasional dramatic performances began in the 1940s. They are all free and have been largely supported since 1951 by a gift from the late Gertrude Clarke Whittall, who wanted to bring good literature to a larger audience.
Consultants in Poetry and Poets Laureate and Terms
- Joseph Auslander, 1937-1941
- Allen Tate, 1943-1944
- Robert Penn Warren, 1944-1945
- Louise Bogan, 1945-1946
- Karl Shapiro, 1946-1947
- Robert Lowell, 1947-1948
- Leonie Adams, 1948-1949
- Elizabeth Bishop, 1949-1950
- Conrad Aiken, 1950-1952 (first to serve two terms)
- William Carlos Williams (appointed in 1952 but did not serve)
- Randall Jarrell, 1956-1958
- Robert Frost, 1958-1959
- Richard Eberhart, 1959-1961
- Louis Untermeyer, 1961-1963
- Howard Nemerov, 1963-1964
- Reed Whittemore, 1964-1965
- Stephen Spender, 1965-1966
- James Dickey, 1966-1968
- William Jay Smith, 1968-1970
- William Stafford, 1970-1971
- Josephine Jacobsen, 1971-1973
- Daniel Hoffman, 1973-1974
- Stanley Kunitz, 1974-1976
- Robert Hayden, 1976-1978
- William Meredith, 1978-1980
- Maxine Kumin, 1981-1982
- Anthony Hecht, 1982-1984
- Robert Fitzgerald, 1984-1985 (appointed and served in a health-limited capacity, but did not come to the Library of Congress)
- Reed Whittemore, 1984-1985 (Interim Consultant in Poetry)
- Gwendolyn Brooks, 1985-1986
- Robert Penn Warren, 1986-1987 (first to be named Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry)
- Richard Wilbur, 1987-1988
- Howard Nemerov, 1988-1990
- Mark Strand, 1990-1991
- Joseph Brodsky, 1991-1992
- Mona Van Duyn, 1992-1993
- Rita Dove, 1993-1995
- Robert Hass, 1995-1997
- Robert Pinsky, 1997-2000
- Stanley Kunitz, 2000-2001
- Billy Collins, 2001-2003
- Louise Glück, 2003-2004
- Ted Kooser, 2004-2006