In this first issue of Zéjel we have the great honor of including in the section Invited Poet a selection of poems by the American writer, poet and literary critic Donald Hall.
As such, Zéjel has met one of its more ambitious goals: to include the work of a writer of renowned international recognition within the first few issues. In September, the magazine will feature its first publication along with a Spanish translation of the poem “Ruins” by Hall. Thanks are due to the collaboration and generosity of the American publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, who has given us permission for the original poem in English to publish an original, unpublished translation for the first time.
Donald Hall (Hamden, Connecticut, 1928) was influenced from an early age by the works of Edgar Allan Poe and was a precocious writer, publishing his first poem at age sixteen. After graduating from Philips Exeter Academy, he enrolled in Harvard University and later the University of Oxford. During these early years he won the prestigious Newdigate Award for his poem “Exile.” From 1953 to 1961 he was the first poetry editor for the Paris Review and in 1957 he began to teach classes in English language literature at the University of Michigan, where he would meet his future wife and fellow poet Jane Kenyon. He has won countless awards, such as the Leonore Marshall/Nation Prize for his poetry book The Happy Man (1986), the National Book Critics Circle Award for The One Day (1988), as well as the Los Angeles Times literary prize and the Ruth Lilly poetry prize, among others. He has served as the Poet Laureate of the United States, as well as that of the state of New Hampshire. Currently, Hall resides in Wilmot, New Hampshire in his grandparents’ former farmhouse, the source of inspiration for many of his poems.
His involvement in the academic world and the richness and variety of his body of work have led him to be considered one of the greatest writers of his generation of American literature of the 20th century.
“Ruins” brings us the perspective of a man who lives through another person. The landscape and the home are revealed as spaces of solitude and painful introspection upon the assumption that that other person is content living separate from the narrator, happily moving with the inertia of their everyday life. “Ruins” shouts for those nonbelievers who are trapped in their own past and who, through the eyes of others, have been reduced to nothing but distant rubble.