Time and Materials: Poems 1997-2005
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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.
probably laboring over a poem And is not to be disturbed. And look! I have rediscovered The sweetness and the immortality of art. The actress Wrote under a pseudonym, died, I think, of cancer of the lungs. So many of them did. Far better for me to be doing this (A last lurid patch of fog out of which the phrase “The End” Comes swimming; the music I can’t hear surging now Like fate) than reading with actual attention my field guides Which inform me that the flower of the incense cedar I
Vietnamese and the Americans in Vietnam, Boston: Atlantic, Little, Brown, 1972, pp. 166–167. “…whole races of tropical birds”: see The Air War in Indochina, ed. Raphael Littauer and Norman Uphoff, Air War Study Group, Cornell University, revised edition, Boston: Beacon Press, 1972, pp. 94–95, 256–260. Also, generally, Sven Lindqvist, A History of Bombing, translated by Linda Haverty Rugg, New York: New Press, 2000. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS Some of these poems appeared in American Poetry Review,
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where, tearing, or like burnished leaves In a vortex of wind, the part of you that might observe The comedy of gasps and moans gives way, does not Demur. Though she did laugh at herself. An erotic Attachment one whole winter to the mouth Of a particular television actor—she’d turn the TV on— Watch him for a minute with a kind of sick yearning— Shake her head—turn the TV off—go back to the translation Of Van Gogh’s letters which was her project that year— Or do some ironing—that always
streak, To smudge, to blur, to gouge, to scrape. “Action painting,” i.e., The painter gets to behave like time. 4. The typo would be “paining.” (To abrade.) 5. Or to render time and stand outside The horizontal rush of it, for a moment To have the sensation of standing outside The greenish rush of it. 6. Some vertical gesture then, the way that anger Or desire can rip a life apart, Some wound of color. ART AND LIFE You know that milkmaid in