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Master of American letters Donald Hall collects forty years of writings on poetry in one essential volume— Breakfast Served Any Time All Day .
Hall's essays concentrate on the sensuality of poems, lavish bodies of language created by the senses for the spirit by way of the senses. These essays understand poetry as one inside talking to another inside through the medium of sound. We read poems best—Hall says—not with our eyes or ears but with our mouths.
Breakfast begins with an essay addressed to the general reader, an attempt to introduce poetry to people not initially comfortable with the art, maybe shy or unsure, but willing to dare an approach. These essays should appeal to those who desire to taste the beauties that poetry offers. Hall's emphasis lies not on poetry's ostensible content, but on its pleasures, less on ideas and more on vowels and the dance of rhythm. Therefore this book can be a corrective to readings of poetry that emphasize what is paraphrasable.
"Hall collects forty years of writings on poetry into a luminous and essential volume about the sensuality of language, its pleasures and sounds."
". . . the essays in this book are engaging, passionate, strange, and unified. . . . One of the chief pleasures of the book is the achieved tone, which is at once careful and casual, sweeping yet capable of the most acute observations. Another is the unrepentant Romanticism. 'Literature is largely although not entirely the product of maniacs,' Hall says at the end of his book. He's right. Criticism, though, is an exercise in sanity, of which these essays are a splendid and useful example."
"It is in this merger of a poet's biography and a poem's body that Hall does his best work. . . . Hall's essays also hammer home his feeling that most modern American poets have lost touch with the art of making a great poem. . . . [It] has an undeniably infectious quality to it. Finishing it, you cannot help but want to return to your bookshelf, and read—again or for the first time—the great forgotten poems of our past."
—Nathan Greenwood Thompson, Rain Taxi, Winter 2003-2004
"Donald Hall's collection of 'Essays on poetry new and selected' is a volume I will be returning to many times in the future. Engrossing, passionate, humorous and wonderfully insightful, these engaging studies will delight those who enjoy poetry, or would like to. . . . The best selections—and there is hardly a second-best page in the entire volume—occur when Hall reflects upon the nature of poetry itself. The theme that he returns to again and again is the unique relationship between form and content that makes a particular poem a poem, and he always approaches his
subject from a new and unexpected angle, with an informed wit and a lightness of touch that takes us to the very heart of creativity."
—Ron Butlin, Times Literary Supplement
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