The Apple Trees at Olema: A Novel of Suspense

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9780061923821: The Apple Trees at Olema: A Novel of Suspense

Robert Hass is an American poet of great eloquence, clarity, and force whose work is rooted in the landscapes of his native Northern California. 'The Apple Trees at Olema' is a Poetry Book Society Special Commendation, and includes work from five books - 'Field Guide', 'Praise', '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 non-human 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 sceptical 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 Miosz - combines intimacy of address, a quick intelligence, a virtuosic skill with long sentences, intense sensual vividness, and a light touch.

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Review:

"He uses his empathetic capacity to extend his range - Hass and Milosz have in common astounding intellectual gifts and the virtuoso's mastery of tone which contrives to endow natural speech with a sometimes unbelievable subtext of resonances." --Louise Gluck

"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)

"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)

About the Author:

Robert Hass was born in 1941 in San Francisco. He served as US Poet Laureate in 1995-97. His many awards include a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award for 'Time and Materials' (2007), and the National Book Critics Circle Award for 'Sun Under Wood' (1996). His first collection 'Field Guide' was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series in 1973. Hass also worked with Czesaw Miosz to translate a dozen books of Miosz's poetry, including 'Treatise on Poetry' and, most recently, 'A Second Space'. His translations of the Japanese haiku masters have been collected in 'The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa'. His books of essays include 'Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry' (1984) and 'Now and Then: The Poet's Choice Columns' (2007). He lives in northern California with his wife, the poet Brenda Hillman, and teaches at the University of California at Berkeley.

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