First Sunday of Advent — Poems


by Donald Hall

When I see the cradle rocking
What is it that I see?
I see a rood on the hilltop
Of Calvary.

When I hear the cattle lowing
What is it that they say?
They say that shadows feasted
At Tenebrae.

When I know that the grave is empty,
Absence eviscerates me,
And I dwell in a cavernous, constant
Horror vacui.[1]

This audio podcast features “Annunciation” by Denise Levertov, “Advent” by Donald Hall, “Into The Darkest Hour” by Madeleine L’Engle[2] and a selection from the Book of Common Prayer.

[1] Source: Poetry Foundation
[2] Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry)

It’s that time of year

Block print Christmas card

For the last few years, around the end of September, traffic to this site increases dramatically due to a post I wrote titled “Advent Poems (or the 12 days of Christmas poetry).” This year is no different. Traffic continues to increase as the first Sunday of Advent approaches.

The original post was written in response to a search for good Advent poetry. A lot of seasonal, sentimental verse is available, but very little Advent specific poetry. So, I posted a list of twelve poems that not only presented the theme of Advent but also challenged me to meditate on the purpose of Advent.

Last year I tried something different. I produced four audio podcasts featuring Advents poems and additional sacred writings. The audio podcasts were recorded and released when me and my family were, for all practical purposes, homeless.

The reading of the poems and Advent writings brought courage in spite of circumstances. I hope you enjoy the audio recordings that I will release this year during the Advent season.

Searching for lost confessions


There is so much to confess. A thousand things must be confessed.

Thirteen moons since last I confessed (see previous confessions below).

What is confession? The admission of guilt? A written or oral disclosure of activity committed that requires reconciliation, restitution, and restoration?

Confessional poetry of the 1950s and 1960s (think of poets like John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell) forever changed the course of American poetry. It was less of a religious expression and more of a psychological therapy for the poet(s).

When I first started posting confessions it was somewhere closer to a Japanese renga meets an American confessional poem meets to-do-list.

But those confessions, those poems, those lists, fell into my beard and the rain washed them down Jefferson Street to the Third Ward. I’ve been trying to locate them… in coffeeshops… underpasses… side streets… and park lots…

Previous confessions: [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9] [10]

100 Thousand Poets for Change – Racine

100 TPC - Asheville graphic

Two years ago Barbara Gravelle and I helped organize a 100 Thousand Poets for Change event at The Downtown Market Asheville. The evening was memorable on so many levels. Reading poetry with long-time friends and poets, reuniting with other poets and meeting new poets were highlights of that night. It also marked the beginning of a long farewell to my adopted hometown.

A lot has happened in two years. Relocation. New employment. New material written. New material published. And so on.

This year I will join Nick Demske and other Racine, Wisconsin poets at the May’d Ent Buidling for the 2015 100 Thousand Poets for Change global event. The Wisconsin poets and writers in Racine and Milwaukee (and other places in between) are talented and engaged.

Saturday night’s 100 Thousand Poets for Change at the May’d Ent Building (433 Main Street, Racine, WI) should be an exciting event of poetry and more. Doors open 5:30 p.m., but get there early and hangout with new friends.

[Reprint] Typewriters are not smartphones

Typewriters are not smartphones; no autocorrect, no spellcheck, no batteries, completely analog

Note: originally POSTED ON JULY 6, 2011

Box of Poetry

A challenge motivates me to think of solutions. In this case, the challenge was inspired by a reader of this blog who commented: “It would be lovely to cover a little box with beautiful words…” Great idea!

After a couple concepts and a couple drafts of what I hope are “beautiful words” here is a custom origami box of poetry. The reward is to watch the user/reader pick up the box and decipher the order of the poem.


[Front] “Box of poetry”


[Left flap] “In a land where/the blind lead the/blind/the poets are the seers/the judges/the priests/the relics of a religious/age… It amuses the/people to hear their words/but few convert/and see the word/written/or


[Right flap] “spoken/on the wings of/pages/on the winds of the east/or across the western/prairie… Spoken to the/scribes and bound into/the souls of the faithful/the few illuminated by a package/of poetry/written on a scrap/of grocery bag/folded into/a cipher and/left on a/window/sill”


[Back] “this is your box of poetry to light your way in the land of the blind/after reading these lines eat the words and burn the box”

Poem: There’s a place

Poem: There’s a place

NOTE: Originally published April 12, 2011,

Book bundles available at the book fair



Who doesn’t like a deal? This weekend only at the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair (Saturday, May 23, 2015, 2-5 p.m., Rhode Center for The Arts), you can purchase copies of my books for special book fair price: four books for $16. Limited quantities are available. So come early. See you there.

[Reprint] Poem: Foggy Sunday morning

[Reprint] Poem: Foggy Sunday morning

NOTE: Originally published April 11, 2011,

Late Night Writing – second edition – third printing


Late Night Writing is now in its third printing and the new edition features a foreword by the poet Pasckie Pascua. Copies of Late Night Writing will be available the Racine & Kenosha Authors Book Fair is this weekend, Saturday, May 23, 2015 at Rhode Center for The Arts. A special book fair price makes it very affordable to purchase and I will personally sign your copy (and if you ask nicely, I may even add a quick drawing/sketch).