A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety

by Donald Hall

Former poet laureate of the United States Donald Hall’s final collection of essays, from the vantage point of very old age, once again “alternately lyrical and laugh-out-loud funny.”* 


*(New York Times)

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358056140
  • ISBN-10: 0358056144
  • Pages: 224
  • Publication Date: 04/09/2019
  • Carton Quantity: 24

About the book

New essays from the vantage point of very old age, once again “alternately lyrical and laugh-out-loud funny,”* from the former poet laureate of the United States 

* New York Times 


Donald Hall lived a remarkable life of letters, one capped most recently by the New York Times bestseller Essays After Eighty, a “treasure” of a book in which he “balance[s] frankness about losses with humor and gratitude” (Washington Post). Before his passing in 2018, nearing ninety, Hall delivered this new collection of self-knowing, fierce, and funny essays on aging, the pleasures of solitude, and the sometimes astonishing freedoms arising from both. He intersperses memories of exuberant days—as in Paris, 1951, with a French girl memorably inclined to say, “I couldn’t care less”—with writing, visceral and hilarious, on what he has called the “unknown, unanticipated galaxy” of extreme old age.   


“Why should a nonagenarian hold anything back?” Hall answers his own question by revealing several vivid instances of “the worst thing I ever did," and through equally uncensored tales of  literary friendships spanning decades, with James Wright, Richard Wilbur, Seamus Heaney, and other luminaries.  


Cementing his place alongside Roger Angell and Joan Didion as a generous and profound chronicler of loss, Hall returns to the death of his beloved wife, Jane Kenyon, in an essay as original and searing as anything he's written in his extraordinary literary lifetime.

About the author
Donald Hall

DONALD HALL (1928-2018) served as poet laureate of the United States from 2006 to 2007. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and a recipient of the National Medal of the Arts, awarded by the president.


"Donald Hall writes about love and loss and art and home in a manner so essential and direct it’s as if he’s put the full force of his life on the page. There are very few perfect books, and A Carnival of Losses is one of them.” — Ann Patchett 


"It’s odd that a book whose subject is loss could be so uplifting. And yet it is. Hall may be telling us what it’s like to fall apart, but he does it so calmly, and with such wit and exactitude, that you can’t help but shake your head in wonder." — Washington Post 


“A joyful, wistful celebration of poetry, poets, and a poet's life . . . There's much to enjoy in these exuberant ‘notes.’" — Kirkus Reviews 


“Candid and often humorous . . . Hall’s ruminative and detailed reflections on life make this a fantastic follow-up to his Essays After Eighty." — Publishers Weekly, starred review 


“Hall offers a veritable sparkling necklace of pieces on aging, solitude, and the surprising joys of both, interspersed and embellished by memories.” — Library Journal 


"One of the best American poets . . . 'The Selected Poets of Donald Hall,' to which poetry lovers may turn first, [will] be delightfully surprised to discover they’re more gossip than critique. There is much more about poetry, of course, most notably the longest entry, 'Necropoetics,' about elegies and other poems of death, ending with his for his wife, the late Jane Kenyon. Another, longer piece may be the best: 'Walking to Portsmouth' tells the story behind Hall’s Caldecott medalist children’s book, The Ox-Cart Man. But they’re all good." — Booklist