OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY

OSU Press publishes poems of Hazel Hall

04/24/2000

CORVALLIS - The Oregon State University Press has published a new book, "The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall," featuring the works of a Northwest poet who is attracting a new generation of readers after more than a half-century of neglect.

Hazel Hall died in Portland in 1924 at the age of 38. Confined to a wheelchair since childhood, she lived in an upper room of her family's house in Portland. She enhanced her view of the outside world by positioning a small mirror on her windowsill.

Her poems, which drew acclaim in the 1920s, were published in three separate books. Those poems are combined in the new OSU Press book.

"Her biography is an impressive and moving story," said Tom Booth, marketing manager for the OSU Press. "In her brief and brilliant career, she placed poems in the most prestigious magazines of the time and won the coveted 'Young Poet's Prize' given by Poetry."

Booth said Hall's poetry has enjoyed a renaissance that began with a 1980 publication, "Selected Poems of Hazel Hall." Within a few years, he said, her poems were again included in anthologies. The Oregon Book Awards named the state's most prestigious poetry award after her, and a play by Susan Mach, "Monograms," is based upon her life.

Hall was an accomplished seamstress, whose fine needlework helped support her family. She was as precise with a word as with a needle, and her poems brought into focus the dark undertones of working women in the early 20th century. They also provided insight into "her own private, reclusive life - her limited mobility, her isolation and loneliness, her gifts with needlework and words, and her exquisite grief," wrote editor John Witte.

Some of those feelings are reflected in "The Hand-Glass."

"I am holding up a mirror
to look at life; in my hand-glass
I see a strange, hushed street below me
Where people pass.
The street is coloured like a picture,
And people passing there
Move with the majesty of story,
And are less real and wise than fair.
Looking at life in a mirror
Is distortion. I must see
Through the paint the flimsy canvas,
I must be
Cynical, and judge no passer
By the colour of a dress -
O eyes that must learn from a mirror
Search for dust and bitterness!

Frequently compared with Emily Dickinson, Hall was a celebrated Northwest poet whose career was cut tragically short.

A 1929 review of Hall's poetry in The New York Herald Tribune proclaimed: "...to the discriminating, few names in the modern movement outweigh hers. If fame is more than an accident, it seems inevitable...that someday Hazel Hall must be rediscovered."

"The Collected Poems of Hazel Hall," part of the Northwest Readers series published by the OSU Press, is available in book stores and libraries throughout the Pacific Northwest. It also may ordered by calling 1-800-426-3797.