What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World
  • What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World
  • What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World

What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World

by Robert Hass
     
 

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Universally lauded poet Robert Hass offers a stunning, wide-ranging collection of essays on art, imagination, and the natural world—with accompanying photos throughout.

What Light Can Do is a magnificent companion piece to the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Time and Materials

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Overview

Universally lauded poet Robert Hass offers a stunning, wide-ranging collection of essays on art, imagination, and the natural world—with accompanying photos throughout.

What Light Can Do is a magnificent companion piece to the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Time and Materials, as well as his earlier book of essays, the NBCC Award-winner Twentieth Century Pleasures. Haas brilliantly discourses on many of his favorite topics—on writers ranging from Jack London to Wallace Stevens to Allen Ginsberg to Cormac McCarthy; on California; and on the art of photography in several memorable pieces—in What Light Can Do, a remarkable literary treasure that might best be described as “luminous.”

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this erudite and engaging collection of more than 30 essays, poet and UC-Berkeley professor Hass (Time and Materials) covers topics as eclectic as the lives of great writers; art’s relationship to violence; spirituality; the landscape photography of California; the underappreciated canon of black nature writing; and the experience of teaching poetry. “The essay as a form is an act of attention,” Hass writes in the introduction, and his attentions are wide-ranging; each overstuffed piece is an opportunity for meandering digression and fruitful association. Hass’s passionate admiration for his fellow men and women of letters—including Jack London, Maxine Hong Kingston, Czeslaw Milosz, Allen Ginsberg, and Cormac McCarthy—animates his prose. The best essays transcend their subject matter, becoming works of literature in their own right. These meditations, such as “Robert Adams and Los Angeles,” which reflects on the photographer’s vision of California, and “An Oak Grove,” a requiem for the felled trees of the Berkeley campus, fuse the poet’s love of language with the scholar’s interest in context, demonstrating the truth of Hass’s own claim that “the deepest response to a work of art is, in fact, another work of art.” (Aug.)
Booklist
“Drawn to compelling subjects that he makes his own, Hass writes prose every bit as zestful, penetrating, and sure-footed as his poetry. . . This powerful collection affirms Hass’ stature as a philosophically attentive observer, deep thinker, and writer who dazzles and rousts.”
Library Journal
Poet Hass (English; Univ. of Calif., Berkeley), a former U.S. poet laureate, presents a selection of his lectures, reviews, and essays written between 1985 and the present. He discusses poems, poets, and photographers. Most but not all are about moderns. (There are essays on America's first poet, Edward Taylor (d. 1729), and on Jack London, as well as Anton Chekhov.) Hass's background, which includes work in academia and as a translator (including of seven books by Czeslaw Milosz) as well as his work as poet-practitioner, serves well in these essays: he intuits what poets are trying to do and what the student needs to appreciate them. Even the slightest of essays (four on photographers are more description than analysis) offer gems of insight. The best are as good as you'll find anywhere. VERDICT Lovers of poetry, especially modern poetry, will enjoy this book. It holds together more than most collections of occasional pieces.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
Kirkus Reviews
A winner of just about every major literary award exercises his considerable critical chops, ruminating on the works of poets, photographers, writers and other artists. Hass (English/Univ. of California, Berkeley; The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems, 2010, etc.) brings formidable gifts and experience to the art of criticism. He speaks with greatest authority about poets and poetry, as evidenced by his pieces about literary celebrities like Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg, Robinson Jeffers, Czeslaw Milosz (whose works Hass has helped translate) and others. Hass also introduces Western readers to the Korean poet Ko Un and to Slovene and Chinese poets. In one section, he celebrates the work of California writers Jack London, Mary Austin and Maxine Hong Kingston. He also dives into the complexities of the Gospel of John, wrestles with the relationship between poetry and spirituality, highly praises the Border Trilogy of Cormac McCarthy ("a miracle in prose," he calls The Crossing) and offers a swift, sensitive history of blacks' servitude in the sugar, tobacco, cotton and rice fields. He ends with the text of a speech he delivered at Berkeley in 2009 about the controversy at that school over the removal of a grove of oaks to accommodate the athletic facilities. For that piece, Hass walked the ground, explored natural history and read stories about the founding of the university--in other words, he did his homework. Characteristic of all of these pieces, of course, is Hass' great erudition (even bibliophiles may feel as if they've not read very much) but also a surpassing generosity of spirit, a determination to understand other writers and artists rather than to judge them. Not for all readers, but prime in its class--literate, learned and wise criticism, with scarcely a breath of cynicism or disdain.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780061923913
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
07/30/2013
Pages:
496
Sales rank:
606,476
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.30(d)

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