Reviews for Apple Trees at Olema : New and Selected Poems


Booklist Reviews 2010 March #2
Long, laddering lines impel you down the page as Hass contemplates the living and the dead, the human and the wild with yearning and philosophic poise. This lustrous retrospective collection, drawn from five previous books, beginning with Field Guide (1973), opens with a generous selection of new poems redolent of Whitman and the blues. Narrative poems are droll and astringent in their musings over love's paradoxes and history's shifting claims, children's pleasures, poverty, and danger. A National Book Award winner and former poet laureate prized for his insights into human nature and our place in the web of life, Californian 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. Legacies and ruptures, sex and food, the journaling impulse to stop time, the "strangeness of living," all become catalysts for the tonic perceptions shared by this compassionate master poet who declares, "Joy seized me."

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Publishers Weekly Reviews 2010 April #3

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. (Apr.)

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