Poetry Sunday: The Things by Donald Hall

Donald Hall, a former poet laureate of the United States, died last week at the age of 89. He was not only a poet but also a playwright, a memoirist, and an anthologist. He wrote scores of poems and was known for revising each one and revising it again until it finally reached what he saw as perfection. 

He wrote poems about ordinary things and events, about the lives of ordinary people. Here's one that he wrote that made me think of my own ordinary life and of the ordinary house that I live in. When asked to describe our house, my husband says it looks lived in; it looks like us. 

And it looks "lived in" because of our things, collected over the last forty-plus years together. Collected and cherished.

The Things

by Donald Hall

When I walk in my house I see pictures,
bought long ago, framed and hanging
—de Kooning, Arp, Laurencin, Henry Moore—
that I've cherished and stared at for years,
yet my eyes keep returning to the masters 
of the trivial—a white stone perfectly round, 
tiny lead models of baseball players, a cowbell, 
a broken great-grandmother's rocker,
a dead dog's toy—valueless, unforgettable 
detritus that my children will throw away
as I did my mother's souvenirs of trips 
with my dead father, Kodaks of kittens, 
and bundles of cards from her mother Kate. 


  1. Poignant. Looking forward, looking back. So wonderful that he left us his poems and writings.

    1. Thus do the writers that we enjoy never really leave us. That's the wonderful thing about the written word.

  2. I just helped to clean out an elderly relative's apartment - this is so true; too true.

    1. We've had to do that for our parents - both my husband and I - and it is not an easy task. I, for one, found it hard to get rid of their things and, consequently, we now have an attic full of stuff which our children will probably some day have to dispose of!

  3. "...yet my eyes keep returning to the masters
    of the trivial..."

    I like that. Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentinian poet, also has a lovely philosophical poem about the things we collect throughout our lives, which after we are gone ignore we no longer possess them. It is also titled 'The Things'. :-)

    1. I'm not familiar with the Borges poem, but I'm going to look it up right now!

    2. ...And I just did. It's a lovely poem. I'll have to feature it here sometime soon.


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