Sun Under Wood

Robert Hass, Author Ecco $22 (77p) ISBN 978-0-88001-468-7
Hass is Poet Laureate of the United States, a position through which he has worked to enlarge the cultural presence of poetry. Much the same ends are served in his new collection, which contains a remarkable range of themes and styles, all of them generous-hearted and friendly of access. Although Hass's work can be positioned somewhere between the rural lyricism of William Stafford and the precise, Zen-like economies of Gary Snyder, he seems, most of all, a California poet. There is a distinctive ease and optimism to his poetic attentions, and his voice is as comfortable musing about ethnicity as it is detailing marital peccadilloes or extolling the allure of ""my mother's nipples."" In this, his first volume since 1989's Human Wishes, Hass shows that he can write a perfect sonnet (""Sonnet""), but seems to revel more in an idiosyncratic free-form of blank verse broken by sharp apercus. Hass is careful not to allow his poems to be reducible or predictable. Most remarkable in this collection is ""Faint Music,"" in which the poet attempts ""a poem about grace,"" and then wanders through a meditation on self-love, an anecdote about a failed suicide, an infidelity and porch sounds at night. In the end, the poet concludes, ""the sequence helps, as much as order helps--/ First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing."" Such quirky, imaginative incarnations of grace are all we need ask of a poet or a laureate. 20,000, first printing. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1996
Release date: 10/01/1996
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-88001-557-8
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