James Baker Hall Dead

James Bak­er Hall died on June 25th. I con­fess to not hav­ing read him (yet–only so much time and ener­gy in one life-span) but I had read about him a few times in con­nec­tion with Wen­dell Berry. The poems I'm able to find online are quite good, though. I'm comb­ing the online book­sellers soon, so if any­one has a book rec­om­men­da­tion, I'm game.

From Tom Thur­man at ket​.org:

James Bak­er Hall

A Profile

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James Bak­er Hall grew up in Lex­ing­ton, KY, where he was a mul­ti-sport star ath­lete at Hen­ry Clay High School. With mon­ey he made from his paper route, he trav­eled to Paris at age 20. After fin­ish­ing col­lege back home at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ken­tucky, he left for grad­u­ate work at Stan­ford, where he was lat­er joined by fel­low Ken­tuck­ians and UK alums Wen­dell Berry, Gur­ney Nor­man, and then Ed McClana­han.

Jim squeezed in a stay in Seat­tle between stints at Stan­ford. Lat­er he set­tled in Storrs, CT, where he was joined by Gur­ney for a time and re-estab­lished ties with Bob­bie Ann Mason, then a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Con­necti­cut. Jim is quick to give cred­it to UK writ­ing pro­fes­sor Bob Hazel for encour­ag­ing young writ­ers to explore the world before set­tling down to write about it:

“The one thing that Robert Hazel insist­ed upon that had an imme­di­ate and last­ing effect on us all was that we get out of Ken­tucky,” he remem­bers. “We had to leave in order to escape the provin­cial­ism of our her­itage. And what leav­ing Ken­tucky at that time meant more often than not, if not all the time, was New York. So we went somewhere.”

After leav­ing Con­necti­cut, where he blunt­ly states that his life was in tur­moil, Jim returned to Ken­tucky in the ear­ly 1970s as a writ­ing pro­fes­sor at his alma mater. As a poet, pho­tog­ra­ph­er, and film­mak­er, he has estab­lished him­self as a major cre­ative force in many fields, and in 2001 he was named to a two-year term as Kentucky’s Poet Laureate.

“I came back in 1973, after hav­ing been gone for 20 years or so … and I found out after a num­ber of years that I had very, very pro­found unfin­ished busi­ness here. But I didn’t know that when I came back,” Jim says. “And I stayed on because it’s my home. You don’t have to like your home, right? You only got one.”

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