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Crossing The Pond With Poetry

Donald Hall, who will step down as poet laureate in June, joined Britain's Andrew Motion in a reading.
Donald Hall, who will step down as poet laureate in June, joined Britain's Andrew Motion in a reading. (By Ricky Carioti -- The Washington Post)

He is also prepared to make a case for Bob Dylan as "the greatest artist alive."

As the Iraq war broke out, Motion published a couple of poems expressing his views. One summed up its true causes as "elections, money, empire, oil and Dad." He chose not to read either last night.

Instead he read, among others, a poem called "A Wish List." The list is of things he would have liked to bury with his father, who died a year ago -- and it adds up, Motion said, to a kind of miniature biography.

Make room for these things, too:

The china hare

I lifted from your bedside table years ago

And kept, to prove I loved you, like a child . . .

Your army pack for D-Day,

With its German phrasebook and a map of Normandy.

Last night's appearance, said Librarian of Congress James Billington, was to be "Donald Hall's final public event" as poet laureate in Washington. Looking frail, seated in a chair but reading with his usual forceful clarity, Hall began with a poem more than five decades old:

Love is like sounds, whose last reverberations

Hang on the leaves of strange trees . . .


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