The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems

Robert Hass, Author . Ecco $34.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-06-192382-1

Hass's first retrospective allows us to trace the development of the narrative voice he began cultivating most powerfully with 1979's Praise . Who can forget their first reading of “Meditation at Lagunitas,” in which Hass tells us we call it longing “because desire is full/ of endless distances”? The new poems show Hass at the height of his narrative powers, as in “Some of David's Story,” where the dissolution of a loving relationship is told to us in brief anecdotes by David himself. Recent poems from Time and Materials ask direct, bird's-eye view questions: “What is to be done with our species? Because/ We know we're going to die, to be submitted to that tingling of atoms once again.” Hass's work derives its strength from how it challenges both breath and line. Few are the poems in which Hass doesn't push his breath, and ours, almost to the point of breaking. He tries to get every word he can into each line, every detail he can into each poem, as though, if these feats are possible, then it's also possible to save some part of the world from dissolution. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 04/19/2010
Release date: 03/01/2010
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