"Alternately lyrical and laugh-out-loud funny."—New York Times
“Deliciously readable . . . Donald Hall, if abandoned by the muse of poetry, has wrought his prose to a keen autumnal edge.” — Wall Street Journal
His entire life, Donald Hall dedicated himself to the written word, putting together a storied career as a poet, essayist, and memoirist. Here, in the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of very old age, his essays startle, move, and delight. In Essays After Eighty, Hall ruminates on his past: “thirty was terrifying, forty I never noticed because I was drunk, fifty was best with a total change of life, sixty extended the bliss of fifty . . .” He also addresses his present: “When I turned eighty and rubbed testosterone on my chest, my beard roared like a lion and gained four inches.” Most memorably, Hall writes about his enduring love affair with his ancestral Eagle Pond Farm and with the writing life that sustains him every day: “Yesterday my first nap was at 9:30 a.m., but when I awoke I wrote again.”
“Alluring, inspirational hominess . . . Essays After Eighty is a treasure . . . balancing frankness about losses with humor and gratitude.” — Washington Post
“A fine book of remembering all sorts of things past, Essays After Eighty is to be treasured.” — Boston Globe
Near the start of this rich essay collection, former U.S. poet laureate Hall also a biographer, children's book writer, and literary critic writes that "poetry abandoned" him after he turned 85, but his prose writing endures and sustains him. And as this book shows, Hall who sometimes puts his essays through more than 80 drafts has not lost his touch. Laconic, witty, and lyrical, Hall is a master stylist, yet he remains refreshingly humble and matter-of-fact about fame (his and others): "Everyone knows medals are made of rubber." Hall's topics are often autobiographical: the death of his wife, poet Jane Kenyon; his passion for garlic; a car trip through post-WWII Yugoslavia on impassable roads; the limitations of advanced age ("old age is a ceremony of losses"); poetry's rise in popularity; how "devastated" he felt after being appointed poet laureate; and always, his attachment to his ancestral home in New Hampshire, Eagle Pond Farm, and the ever-changing landscape around it. Using these subjects as a springboard to contemplate loss, recovery, work, discovery, and death, among other themes, he observes that "contradiction is the cellular structure of life," without which no essay, poem or story can succeed. By exploring the joys and vicissitudes of a long life, this work offers revealing insights into the human condition and the grit and openness it requires.