The poems in Robert Hass's new collection—his first to appear in a decade—are grounded in the beauty and energy of the physical world, and in the bafflement of the present moment in American culture. This work is breathtakingly immediate, stylistically varied, redemptive, and wise.
His familiar landscapes are here—San Francisco, the Northern California coast, the Sierra high country—in addition to some of his oft-explored themes: art; the natural world; the nature of desire; the violence of history; the power and limits of language; and, as in his other books, domestic life and the conversation between men and women. New themes emerge as well, perhaps: the essence of memory and of time.
The works here look at paintings, at Gerhard Richter as well as Vermeer, and pay tribute to his particular literary masters, friend Czesław Miłosz, the great Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, Horace, Whitman, Stevens, Nietszche, and Lucretius. We are offered glimpses of a surprisingly green and vibrant twenty-first-century Berlin; of the demilitarized zone between the Koreas; of a Bangkok night, a Mexican desert, and an early summer morning in Paris, all brought into a vivid present and with a passionate meditation on what it is and has been to be alive. "It has always been Mr. Hass's aim," the New York Times Book Review wrote, "to get the whole man, head and heart and hands and everything else, into his poetry."
Every new volume by Robert Hass is a major event in poetry, and this beautiful collection is no exception.
…this first book of poems since his term as laureate ended shows the worth of playing against type, the survival of his private talent and the artistic uses of his public life…The title suggests more hopefully that poetry is a craft, like carpentry: this book contains Hass's best and most careful verse in almost 30 years.