Book review: ‘Essays After Eighty’ by Donald Hall

A brilliant collection of mostly humorous essays from the late American poet.

Essays After Eighty

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The late Donald Hall was an American poet. He briefly served a stint as the American Poet Laureate.

Essays After Eighty is a collection of short prose pieces, mainly reminiscences and reflections on being old and infirm. They are, at times, extremely funny. Here’s a sample passage that really did make me laugh out loud. Hall is attending a lavish ‘Jimmy Carter’s poetry do’ at the White House in 1980, and has just struggled to recognise the, then, best-selling poet Rod McKuen:

In every generation there is one poet whom high school boys read to high school girls in order to get into their pants. In my day it was Walter Benton, whose This Is My Beloved was endorsed by the anthologist Louis Untermeyer in publishers’ ads (“I certainly do not find these poems pornographic”) that swept a teenage mob into bookstores. Rod McKuen’s poems didn’t approach pornography—though they did approach Hallmark.

Essays After Eighty is a fantastic read. I look forward to checking out more of Donald Hall’s prose.


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