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Hall to be named US poet laureate

WASHINGTON -- New Hampshire poet Donald Hall, who has chronicled life's sorrows and celebrations in verse across seven decades, will be the next poet laureate of the United States.

His 15th book of poetry, this spring's ``White Apples and the Taste of Stone: Selected Poems 1946-2006," prompted The Washington Post to praise Hall as a rural poet in the Robert Frost tradition and note ``the delightful variety of his work and the sheer charm of his voice."

Hall's first book of poetry, ``Exiles and Marriages," appeared in 1955. The widower of poet Jane Kenyon, who died in 1995, he published a memoir of their marriage, ``The Best Day the Worst Day," last year. Many of his poems commemorate death and loss in the plainspoken style he employs.

``Donald Hall is one of America's most distinctive and respected literary figures," Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said in an announcement prepared for delivery today. ``For more than 50 years, he has written beautiful poetry on a wide variety of subjects that are often distinctly American and conveyed with passion."

Hall's selection to the one-year post is a ``long-overdue recognition for one of America's greatest and most-admired men of letters," National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia said in the announcement.

Reached at home yesterday afternoon, Hall said he received the news by fax last week.

``I feel grateful and excited and a bit frantic," he said.

Born in Connecticut in 1928, Hall for the last 30 years has lived on an old family farm in the tiny west-central New Hampshire town of Wilmot, in the house where his mother and grandmother were born. Life among the region's farms and mountains has been a theme of his poetry.

Hall has won the Lenore Marshall/Nation Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Award , and the Ruth Lilly Prize for Poetry.

Also a writer of prose and children's books, he won the Caldecott Medal for his children's work ``Ox-Cart Man."

He is a member of the Academy of Arts and Letters and has received two fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation.

Succeeding Ted Kooser as poet laureate, Hall will assume his duties this fall. He is to speak at the Library of Congress National Book Festival poetry pavilion on Sept. 30 on the National Mall in Washington and open the library's annual literary series in October with a reading of his work.

The library says it tries to keep official duties of its poets laureate to a minimum so they can work on their own projects.

Some have chaired literary conferences and festivals. Maxine Kumin in 1981-82 started a women's series of poetry workshops, and Gwendolyn Brooks worked in 1985-86 to nurture an interest in poetry among school children.

Poets laureate receive $35,000 as well as a travel allowance.

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