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Now and Then: The Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000


During his years as Poet Laureate, Robert Hass revived a popular 19th-century tradition: including poetry in our daily newspapers. ?Poet?s Choice? went on to appear as a nationally syndicated column across the country from 1997 to 2000. The column, which featured poems relevant to current headlines, serves as a symbol of the continuing importance of poetry in our daily lives. This collection contains well-known poets such as Wallace Stevens, Rita Dove, John Ashbery, and Robert Frost, as well as emerging and ...

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Now and Then: The Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000

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During his years as Poet Laureate, Robert Hass revived a popular 19th-century tradition: including poetry in our daily newspapers. “Poet’s Choice” went on to appear as a nationally syndicated column across the country from 1997 to 2000. The column, which featured poems relevant to current headlines, serves as a symbol of the continuing importance of poetry in our daily lives. This collection contains well-known poets such as Wallace Stevens, Rita Dove, John Ashbery, and Robert Frost, as well as emerging and translated poets such as Jaime Sabines and Czeslaw Milosz. Also included are Hass’s essays that accompanied the poems. Encapsulating a world before 9/11, this collection serves as both remembrance and reminder of a period in our history, and as a celebration of the poets whose works transcend time.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

In 1997, former poet laureate Hass inaugurated the now famous Poet's Choice column in the Washington Post Book World, in which he chose a poem and accompanied it with explanation or context. The goal was to make poetry more accessible to the general reader. Now all of Hass's columns are collected chronologically in a single volume. In the early columns, Hass keeps his statements short, offering mostly background for the week's poem, from standbys like Whitman and Frost, as well as favorites like Plath (about whose troubled biography he says, "I felt like I was summarizing a soap opera"), as well as poets who were unknown then and are perhaps still too little known now, like D.A. Powell (whose work "reads like a handheld camera") and Susan Wheeler. Later, longer columns range across time and space, rounding up everything from experimental writer Fanny Howe to the Serbian epic The Battle of Kossovo. Experienced poetry readers won't find surprises in Hass's good-humored, if sometimes slightly coddling, comments, but this book doubles as an unlikely anthology of poems that are easy to enjoy, and it makes a handy guide for those new to poetry and eager to experience its breadth. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

Former poet laureate Hass fuses down-home observations with complex critical commentary in his new work, a collection of his "Poet's Choice" columns from the Washington Post Book World. These brief, insightful reflections on everything from obscurities in Horace to familiar lines from William Butler Yeats span about two years and generally, but not always, concern newly published works of poetry and poetry translations. Some have a news hook, as in the discussion of Walt Whitman's "Song of Myself" and its connection to the Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky affair. Other essays are tributes to newly deceased poets such as Janet Lewis and Denise Levertov, while still others discuss qualities seen in Asian or Eastern European poetry. What unites this disparate collection is Hass's ability to home in on the telling detail. In the case of Levertov, for example, Hass uses words she had scrawled on a blackboard-"Accuracy is always the gateway to mystery"-as an entrance to her unique poetic vision. Ultimately, Hass understands the intricacies involved in the fine art of poetry and describes them clearly yet compellingly. Highly recommended.
—Diane Scharper

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781582434360
  • Publisher: Counterpoint Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2008
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 1,449,454
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Now and Then

The Poet's Choice Columns, 1997-2000

By Robert Hass Shoemaker & Hoard

Copyright © 2007 Robert Hass
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9781593761462

Chapter One

Several weeks ago I found myself participating in a Sunday afternoon symposium on the subject of Poetry and Resistance at the U.S. Holocaust Museum, on the day after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin. One of those lucid and sunny fall days-so clear it felt that one ought to have something clear to say about that tragedy, about violence, about the making and unmaking of the world. Then, days later, I came across a new book by Susan Stewart, who lives in Philadelphia. It's called The Forest. The poems deal with many of the ghosts in the forests of the 20th century. It's not an easy book, brutal, mournful, intellectually demanding, but beautifully written. One part of the book, "Cinder," begins with this fierce small poem, which bears no title:

We needed fire to make
the tongs and tongs to hold
us from the flame; we needed
ash to clean the cloth
and cloth to clean the ash's
stain; we needed stars
to find our way, to make
the light that blurred the stars;
we needed death to mark
an end, an end that time
in time would mend.
Born in love, the consequence -
born of love, the need.
Tell me, ravaged singer,
how the cinder bears the seed.


Excerpted from Now and Then by Robert Hass Copyright © 2007 by Robert Hass. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

A Note to Readers     xi
December 7: Wallace Stevens and Joni Mitchell     3
December 14: In Memoriam: James Laughlin     6
December 21 Nativity Poems: William Butler Yeats and Louise Gluck     9
December 28: A New Year's Poem from the Korean Sijo Tradition     10
January 4: A Korean Poet: Ko Un     13
January 11: In Memoriam: Denise Levertov     16
January 19: In Memoriam: William Matthews     18
January 25: Frank Bidart     19
February 1: A Polish Poet: Adam Zagajewski     21
February 8: A Question of Decency: Walt Whitman     24
February 15: Stanley Plumly     26
February 22: Sonia Sanchez     29
March 1: Mane Howe     30
March 8: John Koethe     32
March 15: Sylvia Plath     34
March 22: Ted Hughes     37
March 29: Spring, and a New Translation of Horace     39
April 5: Passover: Linda Pastan     41
April 12: Easter: Mary Karr     44
April 19: An Irish Poet: Derek Mahon     45
April 26: Audubon's Birthday: Birds by Robert Frost, W. C. Williams, and Robinson Jeffers     47
May 3: In Memoriam: Octavio Paz     49
May 10: Mother's Day:Dorianne Laux     51
May 17: Agha Shahid Ali     53
May 24: Margaret Atwood     55
May 31: Memorial Day and Shakespeare     56
June 7: Summer and Baseball: Linda Gregerson     60
June 14: Encompassing Nature: Sappho, Lady Komachi, and an Irish Bard     61
June 21: Father's Day: Cornelius Eady     64
June 28: Joseph Stroud and Larissa Szporluk     66
July 5: Independence Day: Ralph Waldo Emerson     68
July 12: Patriotism and Public Memory: Robert Lowell     70
July 19: Susan Wheeler     74
July 26: D.A. Powell     76
August 2: Arthur Sze     78
August 9: The Villanelle: Theodore Roethke and Elizabeth Bishop     79
August 16: In Memoriam: Zbigniew Herbert     81
August 23: Something Old, Something New: Charlotte Mew     84
August 30: Yusef Komunyakaa     85
September 6: Labor Day: Gary Snyder     87
September 13: May Swenson     88
September 20: Donald Justice     90
September 27: Presidents, Poets, and Shame: James Wright     92
October 4: Filipino Poetry: Returning a Borrowed Tongues     95
October 11: John Ashbery     97
October 18: Sterling Brown      99
October 25: Robert Bly     102
November 1: Chase Twichell     104
November 8: A Canadian Poet: Roo Borson     106
November 15: A Portuguese Poet: Fernando Pessoa     107
November 22: Thanksgiving: Harriet Maxwell Converse and Iroquois Song     109
November 29: A Swedish Poet: Tomas Transtromer     111
December 6: Czeslaw Milosz: The Poet as a Road-side Dog     114
December 13: Israeli Poems on War and Peace: Yehuda Amichai     116
December 20: Christmas: Mark Doty     117
December 27: A Poem for the End of a Thousand Years: W.H. Auden     120
January 2: A Scottish Poet for New Year's Day: George Mackay Brown     123
January 10: In Memoriam: Margaret Walker     124
January 17: In Memoriam: Janet Lewis     127
January 24: Philip Larkin     130
January 31: A Spanish Poet: Rafael Alberti     131
February 7: George Herbert     132
February 14: Valentine's Day: Kenneth Rexroth     134
February 21: An Irish Poet: Paul Muldoon     136
February 28: Ben Jonson     138
March 7: Pattiann Rogers     140
March 14: An Italian Poet: Eugenio Montale     142
March 21: Claudia Rankine      144
March 28: Gerard Manley Hopkins     146
April 4: Easter: Charles Wright     148
April 11: Richard Wright and Langston Hughes     152
April 18: Wang Ping     155
April 25: Michael Ondaatje     156
May 2: Forrest Gander     160
May 9: A Serbian Poet: Vasko Popa     162
May 16: Adrienne Rich     165
May 23: Malena Morling     167
May 30: Memorial Day: Jaime Sabines     170
June 6: The Poetics of Travel: Elizabeth Bishop     173
June 13: Paul Beatty     175
June 20: Father's Day: Li-Young Lee     177
June 27: Poetry and Weddings: Benjamin Saenz     180
July 4: Independence Day: Rita Dove     182
July 11: Fanny Howe     183
July 18: Lee Ann Brown     187
July 25: A Serbian Epic: The Battle of Kosovo     189
August 1: Denise Levertov     193
August 8: Summer Shakespeare     196
August 15: Louise Gluck     199
August 22: In Memoriam: Sherley Anne Williams     202
August 29: Naomi Shihab Nye     205
September 5: Labor Day: William Blake and Debra Allbery     207
September 12: One Thousand Years of Poetry in English: A Millennium Gathering     210
September 19: Rainer Maria Rilke: Herbsttag     221
September 26: Rainer Maria Rilke Translated by Galway Kinnell and William Gass     224
October 3: Andrew Hudgins     227
October 10: Heather McHugh     229
October 17: Dean Young     232
October 24: John Clare     237
October 31: HaIloween: John Keats and Lynne McMahon     240
November 7: Czeslaw Milosz: An Argument About Imperialism     243
November 14: Wallace Stevens     245
November 21: Thanksgiving: Daniel Halpern     250
November 28: A Peruvian Poet: Cesar Vallejo     253
December 5: Bad Words: Stephen Berg     256
December 12: Seamus Heaney's Beowulf as an Ecological Epic     259
December 19: Snow: Emerson, Lowell, Dickinson, Longfellow, Whittier, and Stevens     261
December 26: Christmas: Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter     267
January 2: New Year's Day: Tessa Rumsey and Harryette Mullen     271
January 9: Charlotte Smith     274
January 16: Rita Dove     277
Epilogue: Ezra Pound     281
Copyright Acknowledgments     287
Index     297
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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 5, 2008

    Now and Then

    Rose <BR/>November 24, 2008<BR/><BR/>Now & Then<BR/>The Poet¿s Choice Columns<BR/>1997-2000<BR/><BR/>Publisher: Counterpoint<BR/>Number of pages: 295<BR/>Year Published: 2007<BR/>Price: $11.53 in paperback<BR/><BR/>Ideal Audience: This book would be a welcome addition for both the poet and poetry lover alike. I think that it would be accessible from the high school level up. Because of the eclectic array of poets, facilitators in both academic and non-academic settings can use this.<BR/><BR/>Brief Summary: Now & Then/The Poet¿s Choice Columns/1997-2000, is a collection of essays written by Robert Hass for his weekly column in the Washington Post¿s Book World. ¿The aim was to introduce poetry to people who had never read it at all; to reintroduce it to people who had read it in school but had gotten out of the habit and, having an impulse to find their way back to it, didn¿t know where to start; and to give people who did read poetry some poems and ideas about poems to think about.¿ (p.xi)<BR/>The ¿Canon¿ is well represented: Shakespeare, Auden, Rilke, Yeats, William Carlos Williams, just to name a few. But Ko Un, a Korean poet, Adam Zagajewski, a Polish poet, Aga Shahid Ali, Michael Ondaatje and Rita Dove are also present. <BR/>This is not a book for academic research. It is however, a treasure trove of anecdotal insights into poem and poet. His Valentine¿s Day column spotlights ¿Lute Music¿ by Kenneth Rexroth. Hass writes, ¿Kenneth Rexroth was the poet of San Francisco in the 1940s and 1950s. He was there as an elder statesman of the maverick strain in American poetry when the Beat Generation assembled itself, and he gave it his blessing. He was one of the best literary essayists of his generation, and his translations of classical Chinese and Japanese poetry are still widely read.¿ (p.134) Hass even includes two of Rexroth¿s translations.<BR/>In his October 11th column on John Ashbery, Hass tells the reader, ¿He can be maddening. The typical sound of his poems is that of a man mumbling to himself, so he disconcerts our idea of music. His expressions¿like ¿we may never realize about our lives¿¿have sometimes the vagueness of the way we actually speak to ourselves, and the poems seem not so much to develop an idea as veer all over the place the way our untended thought processes do.¿ (p.97)<BR/>Robert Hass is a distinguished poet in his own right, having won the National Book Award in 2007 for his collection, Time And Materials. He also served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. He was Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets during that same period.<BR/><BR/>Primary Weakness: In all honesty, I can¿t find any weaknesses. He does what he says he would do: introduce and re-introduce poetry to people. This is informative and enjoyable. Because of the essay format, it¿s very easy to read at your own pace.<BR/><BR/>Urgency Reading: Read this book if you write or love poetry. Read this book if you¿ve never read or written any poetry and just want to know what all the fuss is about. If you plan on teaching high school and above, the essays in this book could be a springboard into class discussions on writers, their backgrounds and what they achieve in poetic form.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2010

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