Because The Conversation reprints the work of other writers, I have been contractually obliged to pay permissions fees and, in many cases, to send copies of the book to the poets I've anthologized. So several months ago I mailed a stack of books to various poets or the representatives of their estates. Within a week, I received a letter from the great poet Donald Hall, who represents the estate of his late wife, Jane Kenyon. He wrote warmly about the Kenyon poem I'd chosen to include ("Having It Out with Melancholy"), said sweet things about the Frost Place and a mutual acquaintance who has recently taught there for me . . . in short, went above and beyond any kind of response I might have expected, which was no response at all.
I felt as if I should write back, but I was anxious. I was in the middle of copying out Kenyon's poems, and I wasn't sure how to talk about them to him. So I put off writing for months.
Finally, last week, I wrote back to Donald Hall, telling him about Baron's workshop on Kenyon at this past summer's Frost Place conference, telling him what I was doing with her poems and how they were affecting my own thoughts as a poet who deals with much the same subject matter.
And he immediately wrote back--telling me in detail about the first time Jane publicly read "Having It Out with Melancholy"--which was at the Frost Place!--talking to me as if I were a real working poet with a place in the world, by which I don't mean fame or stature but simply room.
"I love what you are doing!" he wrote to me.
I am overcome--with pleasure, of course, but also with an enormous wash of humility. I don't know what I am doing that he loves. Whatever it is, I must do better, in all things.