Friday, September 04, 2009

Robert Hass: Time & Materials



I have Robert Hass's Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005
on my desk right now.

The book is physically beautiful. Red with birds and patterns. It would make a lovely Valentine's gifts--I think about this because I bought this on Valentine's day.

Here's Publisher Weekly's review on it--

From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review.) --

The first book in 10 years from former U.S. poet laureate Hass may be his best in 30: these new poems show a rare internal variety, even as they reflect his constant concerns. One is human impact on the planet at the century's end: a nine-part verse-essay addressed to the ancient Roman poet Lucretius sums up evolution, deplores global warming and says that the earth needs a dream of restoration in which/ She dances and the birds just keep arriving. Another concern is biography and memory, not so much Hass's own life as the lives of family and friends. A poem about his sad father and alcoholic mother avoids self-pity by telling a finely paced story. Hass also commemorates the late Polish Nobel laureate Czeslaw Milosz, with whom he collaborated on translations; condemns war in harsh, stripped-down prose poems; explores achievements in visual art from Gerhard Richter to Vermeer; and turns in perfected, understated phrases on Japanese Buddhist models. Through it all runs a rare skill with long sentences, a light touch, a wish to make claims not just on our ears but on our hearts, and a willingness to
wait—few poets wait longer, it seems—for just the right word.

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What I like?

The political poems mixed in with a poem about Iowa in winter.

How Hass never seems to raise his voice in a poem, yet there is passion (i.e. the 4 page poem called "Bush's War")

The understatement of his poems :
"Bone china handle of a coffee mug: the moon"

"Before skin, words."
(both lines from the poem "Twin Dolphins")

What I like about Hass is that he doesn't write to shock, to be witty, to be edgy, to be talked about-- he loyalty is to the poem and to the line.

________

This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 (or 08?). I'd recommend it if you like your poetry served without irony or self-importance.

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