A couple of days ago, Donald Hall was named poet laureate of this great (if sometimes misguided) nation.
A better choice could hardly be imagined: Hall has the deep literary roots and the skills to impress the academics (see his delightful "Mr. Eliot," about meeting, yes, T.S. Eliot)…but also the common touch, the ability to speak plainly and reach ordinary people, that so many academics lack.
For an idea who Hall is as a person, take a look at this warm, admiring essay by Dana Gioia, which begins with a wonderful anecdote.
Once Hall wrote a piece about the great sculptor Henry Moore for ‘The New Yorker," and had a chance to meet the man, a hero of Hall’s. With his fierce, unashamed sincerity, Hall actually asked Moore what the secret of life was, and Moore actually told him:
"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is—it must be something you cannot possibly do!"
Out of this insight came one of Hall’s best books (and a great book for writers) called "Life Work." The only negative in the book is that when Hall talks about his labors, it becomes apparent that he works so hard that few could even hope to keep up with him.
But if you ever have a chance to see him read, do yourself a favor and go. With his simplicity, his insight, and his kindness, he will touch your heart as few others can, be they poets or not.
Here’s a short poem by him from "The Museum of Clear Ideas" called "Routine":
In the bliss of routine
–coffee, love, pond afternoons, poems–
we feel we will live
forever, until we know we feel it.