Poetry Book Society Special Commendation
Robert Hass's The Apple Trees at Olema includes work from five books – Field Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, Sun Under Wood and Time and Materials – as well as a substantial gathering of new poems, including a suite of elegies, a series of poems in the form of notebook musings on the nature of storytelling, a suite of summer lyrics, and two experiments in pure narrative that meditate on personal relations in a violent world and read like small, luminous novellas.
From the beginning, his poems have seemed entirely his own: a complex hybrid of the lyric line, with an unwavering fidelity to human and non-human nature, and formal variety and surprise, and a syntax capable of thinking through difficult things in ways that are both perfectly ordinary and really unusual. Over the years, he has added to these qualities a range and a formal restlessness that seem to come from a sceptical turn of mind, an acute sense of the artifice of the poem and of the complexity of the world of lived experience that a poem tries to apprehend.
Hass’s work is grounded in the beauty of the physical world. His familiar landscapes – San Francisco, the northern California coast, the Sierra high country – are vividly alive in his work. His themes include art, the natural world, desire, family life, the life between lovers, the violence of history, and the power and inherent limitations of language. He is a poet who is trying to say, as fully as he can, what it is like to be alive in his place and time.
His style – formed in part by American modernism, in part by his long apprenticeship as a translator of the Japanese haiku masters and Czesław Miłosz – combines intimacy of address, a quick intelligence, a virtuosic skill with long sentences, intense sensual vividness, and a light touch.
‘He uses his empathetic capacity to extend his range… Hass and Miłosz have in common astounding intellectual gifts and the virtuoso’s mastery of tone which contrives to endow natural speech with a sometimes unbelievable subtext of resonances’ – Louise Glück
Robert Hass live at Dodge Poetry Festival
Robert Hass reads 'I Am Your Waiter Tonight and My Name Is Dimitri' at the 2008 Dodge Poetry Festival, a poem included in his Bloodaxe retrospective The Apple Trees at Olema.
North America: HarperCollins