A Carnival of Losses: Notes Nearing Ninety...it’s a freewheeling essay collection that’s a fitting coda to a distinguished career ... Much in this collection is familiar, including stories about his grandparents’ 1803 New Hampshire house at Eagle Pond Farm, owned by his family since 1865 ... Hall, who spent decades exploring the poetry of death, was sanguine about mortality. In A Carnival of Losses, he considered life’s roller coaster between desolation and joy ... Hall may have reached his roundhouse but not before bequeathing readers with this moving valedictory gift.
Most of his reflections here are blithely inconsequential, keen observations about nature, career and relationships. They expound no end-of-life wisdom, detail no significant literary trends or feuds and offer no general assessment of the state of poetry today. But it is this very lack of utility—the knowledge that we need not underline or take notes—that makes the book such a joy to read. This is not to suggest that the book lacks weight. Whether Hall is describing the passage of the seasons or mulling over the comforts of friendship, he is always worth hearing out. He is especially moving when writing about his love affair and home life with his second wife, Jane Kenyon, a respected poet in her own right ... This collection of well-crafted bric-a-brac demonstrates that he’s still not inclined to let any of his words go to waste.
Over recent years Hall explains that poems stopped coming to him, but that 'prose endures,' and in these two hundred and some pages of mostly short and spiky items, he assesses his current situation ... a pervasive wit gives pressure to these opinions and reminiscences ... When Hall began to publish poems, roughly sixty-five years ago, anything like wit was notably absent ... Decades later, after the death of his wife, the poet Jane Kenyon, he was able to write in a rather different spirit ... its presence in Hall’s late poems, and now in his prose, has given continuing life to the aging writer’s performance ... But the book does not end on that ultimate note of loss; rather there is a touching move back toward the living.