There’s much to enjoy in these exuberant “notes.”

A joyful, wistful celebration of poetry, poets, and a poet’s life.

Personal matters that former poet laureate Hall wrote about in Essays After Eighty (2014, etc.) pop up again, this time with a greater sense of urgency: “As I write toward my nineties I shed my skin. I tell short anecdotes, I hazard an opinion, speculate, assume, and remember. Why should the nonagenarian hold anything back?” In the book’s fourth section, “A Carnival of Losses,” the author returns to stories about his New Hampshire life, relatives, friends, his appearances on Garrison Keillor’s radio show (where once—off air—they traded dirty limericks), watching baseball, and interviewing Boris Karloff in high school. Also included here is his somber and poignant New Yorker piece, “Necropoetics,” largely about his wife, poet and translator Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995. “Poetry begins with elegy,” he writes, as he ruminates on the subject. Poetasters will enjoy his “The Selected Poets of Donald Hall” section, pithy, sharp, and gossipy profiles and anecdotes about poets he has known and met, some slight—e.g., “my recollections of some poets are brief. Allen Tate always looked grumpy.” These are countered by those Hall loved, like Robert Creeley, Theodore Roethke, Seamus Heaney, and James Wright. Then there’s James Dickey, the “best liar I ever knew,” and Tom Clark, the “best student I ever had.” Hall’s admiring piece on Richard Wilbur includes a short, insightful passage on prosody in Andrew Marvell’s “To His Coy Mistress.” The book’s first section, “Notes Nearing Ninety,” shows off Hall’s humor and wit, as in “The Vaper,” about how vaping helped him quit smoking (mostly), “The Last Poem,” about the only time he expressed his politics in a newspaper ("it went bacterial”), and a piece about frequently losing his teeth—literally.

There’s much to enjoy in these exuberant “notes.”

Pub Date: July 10, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-82634-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: March 18, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2018


The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the...

Elie Wiesel spent his early years in a small Transylvanian town as one of four children. 

He was the only one of the family to survive what Francois Maurois, in his introduction, calls the "human holocaust" of the persecution of the Jews, which began with the restrictions, the singularization of the yellow star, the enclosure within the ghetto, and went on to the mass deportations to the ovens of Auschwitz and Buchenwald. There are unforgettable and horrifying scenes here in this spare and sombre memoir of this experience of the hanging of a child, of his first farewell with his father who leaves him an inheritance of a knife and a spoon, and of his last goodbye at Buchenwald his father's corpse is already cold let alone the long months of survival under unconscionable conditions. 

The author's youthfulness helps to assure the inevitable comparison with the Anne Frank diary although over and above the sphere of suffering shared, and in this case extended to the death march itself, there is no spiritual or emotional legacy here to offset any reader reluctance.

Pub Date: Jan. 16, 2006

ISBN: 0374500010

Page Count: 120

Publisher: Hill & Wang

Review Posted Online: Oct. 7, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2006



Well-told and admonitory.

Young-rags-to-mature-riches memoir by broker and motivational speaker Gardner.

Born and raised in the Milwaukee ghetto, the author pulled himself up from considerable disadvantage. He was fatherless, and his adored mother wasn’t always around; once, as a child, he spied her at a family funeral accompanied by a prison guard. When beautiful, evanescent Moms was there, Chris also had to deal with Freddie “I ain’t your goddamn daddy!” Triplett, one of the meanest stepfathers in recent literature. Chris did “the dozens” with the homies, boosted a bit and in the course of youthful adventure was raped. His heroes were Miles Davis, James Brown and Muhammad Ali. Meanwhile, at the behest of Moms, he developed a fondness for reading. He joined the Navy and became a medic (preparing badass Marines for proctology), and a proficient lab technician. Moving up in San Francisco, married and then divorced, he sold medical supplies. He was recruited as a trainee at Dean Witter just around the time he became a homeless single father. All his belongings in a shopping cart, Gardner sometimes slept with his young son at the office (apparently undiscovered by the night cleaning crew). The two also frequently bedded down in a public restroom. After Gardner’s talents were finally appreciated by the firm of Bear Stearns, his American Dream became real. He got the cool duds, hot car and fine ladies so coveted from afar back in the day. He even had a meeting with Nelson Mandela. Through it all, he remained a prideful parent. His own no-daddy blues are gone now.

Well-told and admonitory.

Pub Date: June 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-06-074486-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Amistad/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 2006

Close Quickview