word craft


Remembering Donald Hall

Donald HallI was sad­dened to learn of the death of Don­ald Hall, for­mer US Poet Lau­rate, and children’s book writer (The Ox-Cart Man). I knew his work but I nev­er met him. Once, how­ev­er, when attend­ing a con­fer­ence in Ver­mont, I was in the audi­ence when he was speaking.

I don’t recall the full import of his talk, but in it he offered a def­i­n­i­tion of good writ­ing that I have nev­er for­got­ten. Nor do I know if what he said was some­thing he often offered or if it was some­thing spon­ta­neous. I once tried to search some of his writ­ing for his words, but nev­er found it.

In any case, to the best of my rec­ol­lec­tion, what he said was:

“What the writer tries to do is—metaphorically speaking—write a cir­cle. But he does not write a com­plete cir­cle. There is a gap, like the let­ter C. If the gap is too wide, the read­er can­not bridge it. If the gap is too small, there is no rea­son for the read­er to fill it. But if the gap is just right, the read­er fills it with his/her own expe­ri­ence and the cir­cle is complete.”

As love­ly (and chal­leng­ing) a descrip­tion of good writ­ing as I’ve ever heard.

1 thought on “Remembering Donald Hall”

  1. Thank you, Avi! That was a won­der­ful gift! I’ll save your mem­o­ry of Don­ald Hall’s thoughts on writing!


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