Protect and Served

Whoop! Whoop! Red flash. Blue

flash. Bull horn cackles. License

to cover your eyes.


Brick Wall

Battered. Stout. Shoving

the highway east. But she can’t

resist Morning’s arms.

amreading Poems writer's inspiration

Poet Donald Hall in one question


I would like to begin by asking how you started. How did you become a writer? What was the first thing that you ever wrote and when?


Everything important always begins from something trivial. When I was about twelve I loved horror movies. I used to go down to New Haven from my suburb and watch films like Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Wolf Man Meets Abbott and Costello. So the boy next door said, Well, if you like that stuff, you’ve got to read Edgar Allan Poe. I had never heard of Edgar Allan Poe, but when I read him I fell in love. I wanted to grow up and be Edgar Allan Poe. The first poem that I wrote doesn’t really sound like Poe, but it’s morbid enough. Of course I have friends who say it’s the best thing I ever did: “Have you ever thought / Of the nearness of death to you? / It reeks through each corner, / It shrieks through the night, / It follows you through the day / Until that moment when, / In monotones loud, / Death calls your name. / Then, then, comes the end of all.” The end of Hall, maybe. That started me writing poems and stories. For a couple of years I wrote them in a desultory fashion because I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to be a great actor or a great poet.

Then when I was fourteen I had a conversation at a Boy Scout meeting with a fellow who seemed ancient to me; he was sixteen. I was bragging and told him that I had written a poem during study hall at high school that day. He asked—I can see him standing there—You write poems? and I said, Yes, do you? and he said, in the most solemn voice imaginable, It is my profession. He had just quit high school to devote himself to writing poetry full time! I thought that was the coolest thing I’d ever heard. It was like that scene in Bonnie and Clyde where Clyde says, We rob banks. Poetry is like robbing banks. It turned out that my friend knew some eighteen-year-old Yale freshmen, sophisticated about literature, and so at the age of fourteen I hung around Yale students who talked about T. S. Eliot. I saved up my allowance and bought the little blue, cloth-covered collected Eliot for two dollars and fifty cents and I was off. I decided that I would be a poet for the rest of my life and started by working at poems for an hour or two every day after school. I never stopped.

One question in and I already have to recommend the rest of this interview.

From: The Paris Review Issue 120, Fall 1991

Interview by: Peter A. Stitt


The Korean Church Parking Lot

Escape from pixels

bits and bytes. Slaloming in

and out of sunlight.


Reading on a whim

Peeling back pages.

Pen at hand, underlining

the mysterious.

Football/Soccer Poems

Help Wanted: Sunday League Libero

Role: Stopper. Busser.

Tasks: Sweep behind the back four.

Tidy up their mess.


Date Night

I ramble. My words

jumbled, like spilled chess pieces.

Deep breaths. Her eyes close.



Spanish ghosts through the

drywall. Telling stories of

betrayal and love.


Pick-up Basketball

They were gigantic.

Skilled. But I kept showing up,

hoping to be picked.


Faces on the wall

I see them. Their pores.

Their textures. Their sharp noses

and broken smiles.