Donald Andre Hall, Jr., was born on September 20, 1928, in New Haven, Connecticut, the only child of Donald Andrew Hall and Lucy (Wells) Hall. Hall’s father ran a successful dairy business. Hall’s early years were divided between the contrasting worlds of middle-class suburbia and a pastoral, sensory-laden life on his grandparents’ farm in Danbury, New Hampshire. The Eagle Pond farm has remained in the Hall family for generations, and Hall made it his home, fulfilling a childhood dream to return. Hall has said that his whole intellectual and emotional life evolved from these conflicting cultures: the materialism and normalcy of his parents’ world and the closeness to nature and the land of his grandparents’ farm.
Spending time with his grandfather and doing farm chores as a boy gave Hall time to reflect. At the age of fourteen, he began to write poetry and yearn for a writing career. He also entertained ideas of a career as a great athlete or actor; his later adventures “trying out” for the Pittsburgh Pirates and giving many dramatic poetry readings show that, for Hall, these notions were not mere fantasies.
Hall entered Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, not for social reasons but because his parents thought highly of the school’s academics. He went on to Harvard University, because he believed that institution produced the best teachers. While an undergraduate, Hall dated Adrienne Rich, became friends with Robert Bly and Richard Wilbur, and was one of the founders of the Poet’s Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He won the Garrison and Sergeant prizes and was graduated with a B.A. from Harvard in 1951. On September 13, 1952, he was married to Kirby Thompson, a marriage that produced a son, Andrew, and a daughter Philippa, before it ended in divorce in 1969.
The first major milestone of Hall’s academic life saw him going to the University of Oxford in England as a Henry Fellow; there he also won recognition for his first important book, Exiles and Marriages. Hall earned...
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