Time and Materials
By Robert Hass
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780061349607, 96pp.)
Publication Date: October 1, 2007
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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.
Robert Hass was born in San Francisco in 1941. He attended St. Mary's College and Stanford University. His books of poetry include Time and Materials, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 and the National Book Award in 2008; Sun Under Wood, for which he received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1996; Human Wishes; Praise, for which he received the William Carlos Williams Award in 1979; and Field Guide, which was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series. Hass also worked with Czeslaw Milosz to translate a dozen volumes of Milosz's poetry, including the book-length Treatise on Poetry and, most recently, A Second Space. His translations of the Japanese haiku masters have been collected in The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa. His books of essays include Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism in 1984, and Now and Then: The Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000. From 1995 to 1997 he served as poet laureate of the United States. He lives in northern California with his wife, the poet Brenda Hillman, and teaches English at the University of California at Berkeley.