Synopses & Reviews
The Apple Trees at Olema
includes work from Robert Hass's first five books—Field Guide
, Human Wishes
, Sun Under Wood
, and Time and Materials
—as well as a substantial gathering of new poems, including a suite of elegies, a series of poems in the form of notebook musings on the nature of storytelling, a suite of summer lyrics, and two experiments in pure narrative that meditate on personal relations in a violent world and read like small, luminous novellas.
From the beginning, his poems have seemed entirely his own: a complex hybrid of the lyric line, with an unwavering fidelity to human and nonhuman nature, and formal variety and surprise, and a syntax capable of thinking through difficult things in ways that are both perfectly ordinary and really unusual. Over the years, he has added to these qualities a range and a formal restlessness that seem to come from a skeptical turn of mind, an acute sense of the artifice of the poem and of the complexity of the world of lived experience that a poem tries to apprehend.
Hass's work is grounded in the beauty of the physical world. His familiar landscapes—San Francisco, the northern California coast, the Sierra high country—are vividly alive in his work. His themes include art, the natural world, desire, family life, the life between lovers, the violence of history, and the power and inherent limitations of language. He is a poet who is trying to say, as fully as he can, what it is like to be alive in his place and time. His style—formed in part by American modernism, in part by his long apprenticeship as a translator of the Japanese haiku masters and Czeslaw Milosz—combines intimacy of address, a quick intelligence, a virtuosic skill with long sentences, intense sensual vividness, and a light touch. It has made him immensely readable and his work widely admired.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“[A] lustrous retrospective collection...Hass distills experiences down to their essence as he limns landscapes, portrays friends and loved ones, and imagines the struggles of strangers. The ordinary is cracked open to reveal metaphysical riddles in poems that feel so natural, their formal complexities nearly elude our detection.” Booklist
“The new poems show Hass at the height of his narrative powers... 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 its also possible to save some part of the world from dissolution.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“THE APPLE TREES AT OLEMA...masterly conveys the beauty and fragility of the physical world....earthy yet illuminating, complex yet clear-eyed....The result is poetry that seems to breathe, inhaling softly in some cases, exhaling sharply in others.” Christian Science Monitor
“Hasss achievement is often nothing less than splendid. . . . Conscious of language and its limitations, the tug-of-war between mind and body, Hasss newest work still manages to wholeheartedly engage with the world around him . . . a generous gift for any reader.” Washington Post
“A milestone in what is generally regarded as one of the more successful careers in contemporary American poetry...Reading a good Hass poem...is like watching a painter whose brush strokes are so reassuringly steady you hardly notice how much complex and unsettling depth has been added to the canvas.” New York Times Book Review
“No practicing poet has more talent than Robert Hass.”
The National Book Award-winning author of Time and Materials, Robert Hass is one of the most revered of all living poets. With The Apple Trees at Olema, the former Poet Laureate and winner of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize offers twenty new and selected poems grounded in the beauty of the physical world. As with all of the collections of this great artists work, published far too infrequently, The Apple Trees at Olema is a cause for celebration.
About 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.