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This report is taken from PN Review 253, Volume 46 Number 5, May - June 2020.

Down on the Farm Lucy Cheseldine
Life on a farm doesn’t always mean living by one. When I arrived to work on a one-woman holding in Alabama, first things first, we lunched at an all-you-can eat Chinese on the nearest strip mall. We spent most of our time building a wire fence to keep trucks from veering onto the field full of medicinal herbs, while drivers in those same trucks honked at our bare legs. Fast forward four years and I’m on my way to another farm where life and work weren’t always on a neatly mythic parallel: Donald Hall’s ancestral home at Eagle Pond. His eventual settling there with poet Jane Kenyon, after years away at Harvard, Oxford, Stanford, and Michigan, was never as a farmer. In A String Too Short to Be Saved, he calls New Hampshire’s agrarian world a ‘perpetual elegy’. And, as the phrase suggests, it’s one he’s salvaged in language while remaining characteristically unsentimental about his remove from the soil. We live by our desires and some losses can’t be recovered. But all these contradictions don’t stop us from willing continuity. Nobody knew that as well as Don. Over a year after his death, the latest turn in Eagle Pond’s history is starting to tell a similar story.

Hall died in the knowledge that his granddaughter would live at Eagle Pond, bringing in the new – technological, professional, ideal – while keeping the familial line. When that fell through, his family put the farm up for public sale. At that sale, last May, a group of intellectuals and academics banded ...

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