- Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (1732)
- ASIN: B01N3ME6RD
- Average Customer Review: 43 customer reviews
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Without: Poems by Donald Hall (1998-04-07) Hardcover – 1732
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I found the poems in the first half of the book--those leading up to Ms. Kenyon's death--the best. "Song for Lucy," "The Porcelain Couple," "The Ship Pounding," and, especially, "A Beard for Blue Pantry" and "Blues for Polly" very moving, filled with great images like "Jane made bread so honest/it once went blue in the pantry//overnight in a heat wave" (Pantry) and "She sang blue: soulful, erotic,/skeptical, knowing everything/turns out bad in the end." Not surprisingly, blue is a linking color here.
Mr. Hall also intersperses a poem, "Her Long Illness," throughout the first half of the book. It's a risky strategy but it works well. Some of the best lines in the book come in this poem.
I didn't feel the second half of the book, which focuses more on Mr. Hall's loneliness, stood up as well as the first. The title poem, the first of the aftermath poems, is the weakest in the book. There are some passages in the various "Letters" poems that make up most of the second half that are very nice (my favorite, from "Letter in the New Year": "If someone had told us then/you would die in nineteen years,/would it have sounded/like almost enough time?") but, for the most part, they are very uneven. I was also put off by some of the semi-profane and sexual language in some of these poems. Not that these experiences aren't appropriate but they didn't ring true with the rest of the work.
It may be that the first half has the advantage of the tension of Ms. Kenyon's illness which dissolves into a less satisfying depression and loneliness in the second half. Perhaps my knowledge of the memoir interfered somewhat with my reading of some of the poems. Still, as a whole, this is definitely an excellent collection.