Friday, July 3, 2009

The Morning Reading: Robert Hass

Surprise! Surprise! Poet Robert Hass profiled in The Wall Street Journal.


To Mr. Hass, who's married to the poet and antiwar activist Brenda Hillman, terms like "collateral damage" and "soft targets" are not merely euphemisms but sacrilege. In another poem, written after visiting the demilitarized zone that separates South and North Korea, he writes: "The human imagination does not do well with large numbers. / More than two and a half million people died during the Korean / War. It seems it ought to have taken more time to wreck so many / bodies."

Raised in a Catholic household, Mr. Hass attended parochial school not far from here in the Marin County suburb of San Rafael and had, like his friend Milosz, a "relentlessly moral upbringing." His first book, "Field Guide," earned him the prestigious Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1973. In it, he writes lovingly of the lush California coast, but he also questions the relevance of romantic or elevated poetry in a violent age. Responding to Baudelaire he writes, "Surely the poet is monarch of the clouds. / He hovers, like a lemon-colored kite, / over spring afternoons in the nineteenth century / while Marx in the library gloom / studies the birth rate of the weavers of Tilsit / and that gentle man Bakunin . . . applies his numb hands / to the making of bombs."

To read the rest, click here.

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