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.
A few years ago, Donald Hall wrote a book called Essays After Eighty ... His follow-up collection...comes just weeks after his death at 89 and roughly three months shy of his 90th birthday. And it's a beauty, brimming with stories, confessions and faded snapshots in time in which he muses about life, settles a few scores and brags a little about his accomplishments ... Fellow writers will enjoy his observations about writing, including more than a dozen short profiles of poets he’s known and admired—or not ... 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.