I’m reading the 2006 Poet Laureate Donald Hall’s ‘Unpacking the boxes’, that I had gotten recently, a belated Xmas gift. It’s almost unthinkable to remember the days when milk was delivered to the front or back doors of residences, (Charlie Chips too!) when cream at the top froze during the winter and pushed up the paper caps on the bottles. This was, he notes, before the era of the two car family. Once Americans were prosperous enough for moms to drive their own cars to grocery stores, the demise of multiple entities ensued; the small corner store, dairies, local farms – all perished. The automobile, it seems, can be blamed for all sorts of economic and cultural shifts.
During his early childhood, Hall’s dad was the manager of the local thriving dairy that his grandfather had started, Brock-Hall. He talks about the short-lived celebrity status he enjoyed during a kindergarten tour; the brick dairy was just around the corner from his school. Homogenization standardized the product in the 1950’s and the half gallon cartons reduced local delivery, eventually taking over the process. In 2009 you will only find glass bottled raw milk in specialized health food stores.
This is a review of the book, here’s another. And he sat for three interviews with the Paris Review in 1991, in which he discusses his childhood, where he grew up in New Hampshire and his own interviews with poets T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. Donald Hall interview
He describes an encounter with Robert Frost:
We played softball. This was in 1945, and Frost was born in 1874, so he was seventy-one years old. He played a vigorous game of softball but he was also something of a spoiled brat. His team had to win and it was well known that the pitcher should serve Frost a fat pitch. I remember him hitting a double. He fought hard for his team to win and he was willing to change the rules. He had to win at everything. Including poetry.
This is just one of the gems he recounts about Pound:
There’s the famous story—this didn’t happen to me but I love it—of a young American poet who was wandering around in Venice, not long before Pound died, and recognized the house where Pound was living with Olga Rudge. Impulsively, he knocked on the door. Maybe he expected the butler to answer, but the door swung open and it was Ezra Pound. In surprise and confusion the young poet said, How are you, Mr. Pound? Pound looked at him and, as he swung the door shut, said, Senile.
After reading Hall, one might never again entertain the idea that poets are demure, retiring and well, nice.