The Apple Trees at Olema
A Novel of Suspense
By Robert Hass
(Ecco Press, Hardcover, 9780061923821, 368pp.)
Publication Date: March 2010
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The Apple Trees at Olema includes work from Robert Hass's first five booksField Guide, Praise, Human Wishes, Sun Under Wood, and Time and Materialsas 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 nonhuman 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 skeptical 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 landscapesSan Francisco, the northern California coast, the Sierra high countryare 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 styleformed in part by American modernism, in part by his long apprenticeship as a translator of the Japanese haiku masters and Czeslaw Miloszcombines intimacy of address, a quick intelligence, a virtuosic skill with long sentences, intense sensual vividness, and a light touch. It has made him immensely readable and his work widely admired.
The former poet laureate reflects on his brother's passing in the new poem "August Notebook: A Death." The elegy is included in Hass' new collection, The Apple Trees at Olema, which includes material from his first five works — as well as new poems on the art of storytelling and personal relations in a violent world. More at NPR.org
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