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White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006 Paperback – April 3, 2006

4.9 out of 5 stars 18 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hall's 60 years of much-honored work have made him an elder statesman among American poets and a much-honored exponent of the clear, plain style: this career retrospective (the first since 1990) finds room for all his strengths. Given to formal short work in the '50s, to lengthy verse essays and verse memoirs later on, Hall shows consistent topics and moods: adult life among New Hampshire's farms and mountains, childhood in the Connecticut suburbs, equanimity and nostalgia, satire and self-satire, middle age and old age, regret and reserve. Most original in his long poems from the '80s and '90s, Hall achieved popular success in recent years, in Without (1998) and The Painted Bed (2002), collecting elegies and laments for his late wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, whose life he chronicled in the prose memoir The Best Day the Worst Day (2005). In a month overcrowded with poetry releases, Hall's long-eminent reputation, and the persistent interest in Kenyon, should combine to help this book stand out. (Apr.)
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Review

"The hard-won achievement of a lifetime." (Wall street Journal ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Har/Com edition (April 3, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061853721X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618537211
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,902,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Jesse Kornbluth on June 27, 2006
Format: Paperback
How pathetic is this? I was the kid who liked poetry in school and memorized poems that weren't even assigned. I have a large poetry collection. I regularly steal lines from poets. And yet I never paid close attention to Donald Hall until recently, when he was named Poet Laureate. So the other day, as an act of penance as much as curiosity, I settled myself on the couch with the best poems he's written in a career that has seen him publish for every year I've been alive.

What a ride I took. What a ride awaits you. What a great thing has happened to make Hall visible to the multitudes while he is still among us.

It is easy to say that Hall is the successor to Robert Frost. His family had a farm in New Hampshire, he met Frost when he was young and impressionable, and many of his poems are set in the world of farmers --- gruff men, in a harsh landscape. Theirs is a hard life, but then, Hall seems to say, in poem after poem, so is all life.

"Like an old man," he writes, "whatever I touch I turn/to the story of death." And, again, "Birth is the fear of death." At that point, I reached for a pencil; I could see that Hall's lines have the quotable appeal of smart, direct speech --- the speech of a crusty, independent thinker. Like this: "In America, the past exists/in the library."

The past and the process of aging are Hall's continuing subjects, and he's anything but "poetic" in the way he deals with them. Here's "The Young Watch Us," an early poem:

The young girls look up

as we walk past the line at the movie,

and go back to examining their fingernails.

Their boyfriends are combing their hair,

and chew gum

as if they meant to insult us.

Today we made love all day.
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Hall has been a poet for six decades, a dedicated craftsmen whose poetry turned more personal and autobiographical in the latter years. His most notable recent poems have had to do with his mourning for his wife, the poet Joan Kenyon. But the element of elegy and loss of friends has been a main theme of his poetry for many years. Wikipedia writes of him, " His recurring themes include New England rural living, baseball, and how work conveys meaning to ordinary life. He is regarded as a master both of poetic forms and free verse, and a champion of the art of revision, for whom writing is first and foremost a craft, not merely a mode of self-expression."

One of the most well- known of his poems for his wife is called
'Distressed Haiku' Another of the elegaic poems is the title poem of this collection in which he writes of the loss of his father.
His poetry has often a sharp ironic note. There is a clear, hard feeling in it.
There is something wonderfully special about a volume of collected poems, giving the reader as it does a chance to feel and sense the liftetime struggle and accomplishment of the poet .This is especially so when as in Hall's case the poems of the end of the life are among the most moving of all.
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I feel somewhat embarrassed to say that Donald Hall was not a poet I was familiar with until just recently. And what a great thing I have been missing. I realized that Donald Hall was in a very old anthology I have from 1963 called "The Modern Poets." There is a jaunty photo of him smoking a cigar. The Bio does not mention his wife Jane Kenyon.

What a powerful effect these poems had on me. The come alive in a way I cannot accurately describe. They bring me closer to things I seem to remember, and with simplicity and depth, deliver the earth to my feet. Don't take my word for it. Take a look into this world for yourself.
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for anyone brushed ever so slightly by poetry here in the united states, it's impossible to not have heard the name of robert frost. and it is as nearly impossible to read poems by donald hall without being reminded of the poems of robert frost. more savvy readers of poetry, for whom modernism and schools like imagism and futurism, were of the moment, brushed aside frost's rural americana as hokey and not hip, as compared to pound, eliot, cummings and w c williams. frost was not without his champions, auden admired him, and citing auden, joseph brodsky, a pretty hip poet himself, showed us the dark gravitas in frost's work, comparing him with dante, in the article brodsky wrote for a 1994 new yorker issue, entitled On Grief and Reason.

a rereading of auden, and a first reading for readers who have not yet explored auden's somber city poems, shows the late influences of frost on auden, and the poetic affinities, the kinship, of auden and frost to donald hall.

like frost, hall is a rural poet, a poet of place, of settled home, described repeatedly in exquisite detail, and in narratives as well ordered as the finest prose, stories of his neighbors and rural events. donald hall writes everyday, and he writes of everyday events, of events close at hand. through the years, his volumes encapsulate his ongoing autobiography. as a writer, he spares himself nothing, telling us everything, at his funniest and, entering dante's dark wood, his guide seeming to be frost, as virgil lead dante, there is hall's love interest, his wife, the poet jane kenyon, through her diagnosis of cancer, her treatment, her deathbed, and hall's grieving, poem after poem, heart wrenching poems, nearly unbearable
to read.
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