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.


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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