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Human Wishes

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About the Author:

Robert Hass is the author of two earlier collections of poems, Field Guide and Praise, and a book of essays, Twentieth Century Pleasures. He has also collaborated with Czeslaw Milosz on the translation of his poems, most recently Collected Poems. His many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur fellowship and the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. He has taught for many years at St. Mary's ...

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Overview


About the Author:

Robert Hass is the author of two earlier collections of poems, Field Guide and Praise, and a book of essays, Twentieth Century Pleasures. He has also collaborated with Czeslaw Milosz on the translation of his poems, most recently Collected Poems. His many honors include a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur fellowship and the 1984 National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism. He has taught for many years at St. Mary's College of California and is currently a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In his third collection of poetry, Hass ( Praise ), National Book Critics Circle Award winner for criticism, writes elegiacally of the ``dizzying sensation'' of physical experience, and of natural beauty, ``casual and intense,'' to which words correspond but from which they are innately divided. ``A man thinks lilacs against white houses . . . and can't find his way to a sentence,'' Hass reflects, observing the suffusing ``radiance'' of bodily perception and impelled to evoke it as faithfully as possible, though language inevitably alters what it describes. The transience of the physical, perceived in the ``mortal singularity of the body,'' heightens the quiet drama of the poet's mission, represented powerfully in poems conveying that ``life has its limits''--most poignantly in love, where men and women ``are trying to become one creature, / and something will not have it.'' Feeling that they ``are an almost animal, / washed up on the shore of a world,'' and seeking their completion, humans, in Hass's subtle, searching meditations, must follow the course of their own implacable rhythms, whatever utopia they wish for. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Hass, 1973 winner of the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award, here shows that he has continued to mature as a poet willing and confident enough to allow his richness of vision and command of language room to expand beyond the limits of the shorter line. Except for the haiku-like ``Cuttings,'' the poems are mostly prose pieces whose longer lines work to his advantage by leading from description to statement or by sustaining a meditative movement. Hass talks to us about himself, his family, and his world--a very human place, circumscribed by the shortcomings in all our lives yet accessible to transformation by nature. Details stand out: a hand-rolled cigarette, flecks of plum on a child's face. To follow his mind in such discourse is to stroll rather than scamper or leap about. With a consistent voice Hass leads us ``. . . to the bottom of the raveling.''-- Francis Poole, Kentucky Wesleyan Coll., Owensboro
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780880012119
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/1/1989
  • Series: American Poetry Series
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 86

Meet the Author

Robert Hass was born in San Francisco. His books of poetry include The Apple Trees at Olema (Ecco, 2010), Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award winner Time and Materials (Ecco, 2008), Sun Under Wood (Ecco, 1996), Human Wishes (1989), Praise (1979), and Field Guide (1973), which was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series. Hass also co-translated several volumes of poetry with Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz and authored or edited several other volumes of translation, including Nobel Laureate Tomas Tranströmer's Selected Poems (2012) and The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (1994). His essay collection Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (1984) received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hass served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997 and as Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in California with his wife, poet Brenda Hillman, and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

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Read an Excerpt

Spring Drawing



A man thinks lilacs against white houses, having seen them in the farm
country south of Tacoma in April, and can't find his way to a sentence, a
brushstroke carrying the energy of brush and stroke

--as if he were stranded on the aureole of the memory of a woman's
breast,

and she, after the drive from the airport and a chat with her mother and a
shower, which is ritual cleansing and a passage through water to
mark transition,

had walked up the mountain on a summer evening.

Away from, not toward. As if the garden roses were a little hobby of the
dead. As if the deer pellets in the pale grass and the wavering moon and
the rondure--as they used to say, upping the ante--of heaven

were admirable completely, but only as common nouns of a plainer
intention, moon, shit, sky,

as if spirit attended to plainness only, the more complicated forms
exhausting it, tossed-off grapestems becoming crystal chandeliers,

as if radiance were the meaning of meaning, and justice responsible to
daydream not only for the strict beauty of denial,

but as a felt need to reinvent the inner form of wishing.

Only the force of the brushstroke keeps the lilacs from pathos--the hes
and shes of the comedy may or may not get together, but if they are to get
at all,

then the interval created by if, to which mind and breath attend, nervous
as the grazing animals the first brushes painted,

has become habitable space, lived in beyond wishing.

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