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Sun Under Wood

4.14  ·  Rating Details  ·  767 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Robert Hass demonstrates once again the unmistakable intelligence and original voice that have won him both literary acclaim and the affection of a broad general readership. Here Hass extends and deepens his ongoing explorations of nature and human history, solitude, and the bonds of children, parents, and lovers. Here his passion for apprehending experience with language- ...more
Paperback, 96 pages
Published March 1st 1998 by Ecco (first published 1996)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,291)
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Cory
Apr 12, 2008 Cory rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up during a weekend home (that is,
where my parents live), from a shelf of my treasured titles; somewhere
between Allen Ginsberg (first edition, signed, personalized) and
Arthur Miller (special edition, signed), sat Robert Hass (first edition, signed,
personalized). It happened to be National Poetry Month, and,
after I started to reread his book, Hass
won the Pulitzer for his most recent title -
as if my selecting him on a weekend home had something to do
with the greater selectio
...more
Christina Rau
Aug 28, 2015 Christina Rau rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
The Cons: A lot of the poems are about nature. Birds. A cat. One way to get me to turn away from a poem is to write about a horse. I don't remember any horses here, but I skimmed through the nature stuff, so one might be roaming around in some verse. The problem is that he's got these great lines, and sometimes I found really moving imagery and diction after forcing myself to continue to read a poem when the first line is about an animal. Also, some of his poems he writes twice, as in, he writes ...more
Celeste
Jan 01, 2015 Celeste rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Not my favorite Hass, but still there are many moments of lucidity and beauty. His shorter poems captured me more, but I did enjoy seeing echoes of his previous work in the longer pieces (a man eats bread in one poem the way a woman "dismantles bread" in the famous "Meditation at Lagunitas"). The poem below is Hass at his best.


Our Lady of the Snows

In white,
the unpainted statue of the young girl
on the side altar
made the quality of mercy seem scrupulous and calm.

When my mother was in a hospital dr
...more
Tom
Mar 06, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Poetry is kind of a magic trick when it's done well. Good poetry cuts through the crap, the window dressing, everything you think you're going to find in it and puts in your ears the sound of an authentic human voice. The voice is so authentic that at times it's as real and present to you as your own internal monologue. Maybe more so.

Yes, Hass was the US Poet Laureat. Yes, for so many reasons, his bona fides are unassailable. But when I read this, I heard that voice. I experienced that wonderful
...more
Sheri Fresonke Harper
Thoughtful poems that linger and delve into the inner world. These poems seem to delve into the poet's emotional state following his divorce and also into his mother's alcoholism. The poems are very connected to the mythic world and to nature. They play with language and also with ideas, mixing long connected poems and short poems into a very pleasant collection to read.
Aaron Bauer
Aug 09, 2010 Aaron Bauer rated it really liked it
This is a wonderful collection of poems, especially the shorter poems nearer to the beginning of the book. At the end, the poems get really long and a little difficult to get through--think John Ashbery (a la Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror) but more coherent.
Rebekah Bronwyn
Feb 25, 2010 Rebekah Bronwyn rated it it was amazing
In this collection of poems, Robert Hass looks at everyday experiences, moments, and sights as their own beautiful Beings existing within our lives. I fell in love with his detailed descriptions of The Real. The threaded words that are sentences and stanzas and poems are depictions of his current moment, thought, or reflection of memories. It seems that within each poem Hass explores something real and individualizes it, makes it its own beautiful created thing. His language clearly shows his ow ...more
Allison
Jul 25, 2011 Allison rated it it was amazing
Robert Hass’s Sun Under Wood is a tantalizing collection of poems. Hass is blindingly brilliant in the way he twists and weaves family, history, and nature effortlessly and seamlessly. Hass delves into human nature and plucks out the oniony heart within, analyzing it from every angle and doing it with style. Hass’s use of language is exquisite and his poetry is honest. Reading his poems makes you feel as though he wasn’t Robert Hass, the poet, but Rob, your good friend, sitting down with you and ...more
rosamund
Apr 25, 2016 rosamund rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Some wonderful poems in here, particularly those the contain Hass's reflections and observations of nature, such as "Iowa City: Early April" and "Layover". I feel he is less successful when writing about people and relationships, such as the long poem about divorce, "Regalia for a Black Hat Dancer". Hass always seems to be an outsider, an observer, which works beautifully when he is writing about animals or places, but gives his poems a strange, detached feeling when he writes about emotion or p ...more
John
Aug 30, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Largely meditative, this collection is at times playful and serious. Many of the poems are long and conversational, as though Hass wants us to experience the inner mind. At times, the collection doesn't seem very poetic, or steps outside of the seriousness of poetry, as when he asks the reader the rhythm of a line and then places the line into "Emily's four and three." In another poem, he experiments with the expression of the same thought through different characterizations - the romantic, the ...more
Kristina
Apr 23, 2010 Kristina rated it it was ok
This was recommended to me by a friend and served as my introduction to Robert Hass. I had hoped to love it more, or even like it, but there was something about it that didn't hit me where poetry should. Perhaps it was one poem's long fascination with breasts that put me off, or maybe his glass half empty outlook. Had I divorced someone who claimed to never have loved me, however, I might have a similar stance.

I can't help wondering if I'd taken this book in small bites, not in one hour-long sit
...more
Dearwassily
Jun 13, 2014 Dearwassily rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
Don't judge a book by its cover, for I liked this cover. Is it poetry if it's just prose with the sentences broken up? Boring.
Audrey
Nov 12, 2007 Audrey rated it really liked it
I've been re-reading these poems and it struck me again just how wonderful this collection really is. "My Mother's Nipples" is just extraordinary. It begins in delight and ends in tragedy. Also "Faint Music," "Happiness," Forty Something," and "Shame: an Aria" are all just truly remarkable. Time and Materials, Hass' newest collection is amazing as well but I have not gotten through all the poems yet. Please check out one of the best contemporary poets!
Katy
Jul 08, 2014 Katy rated it liked it
I loved the first half, and in particular the poems about his mother. The translation of Frieda Kahlo's poem is exquisite.
Philip
Feb 15, 2015 Philip rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, owned
My feelings for poetry have been renewed over the last couple years. I am sure thanks to my relationship with Copper Canyon Press and now with Seattle Arts & Lectures. Regardless, I dive in and happen to land on the sweetest of contemplations. Robert Hass may just go down as "my" poet. Everyone has one. Who is yours?

Philip Swanstrom Shaw
Heather
Aug 09, 2007 Heather rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that I'd kill you if you made fun of. It's literally under my skin.

"In the morning, after running along the river:
'Creekstones practice the mild yoga of becoming smooth.'
By afternoon I was thinking: once you're smooth, you're dead."

("Regalia for a Black Hat Dancer")
Tanner Welsh
Jun 17, 2010 Tanner Welsh rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
"I said to myself / there was kindness in the Buddha's hands, but there wasn't kindness / in the hands. They made the idea of kindness / seem--not a delusion exactly, or a joke. They smoothed / the idea away the way you'd stroke a nervous or a frightened dog."

Wonderful similes and imagery, though the passages can be a bit drawn out.
Helen
Oct 20, 2014 Helen rated it it was amazing
Love Robert Hass's poetry, and this collection is no different. I especially enjoyed the poems about Hass's mother, her struggle with alcoholism, and the effect it had on both Robert and on his brother. A deeply personal and beautiful collection, highly recommended.
Audrey Ferrie
Feb 25, 2008 Audrey Ferrie rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
This book holds one of my favorite poems of all time -- Faint Music. I rarely love every poem in any given book, or can even 50% of a given poets work. But Hass has the highest percentage of them all.
Sam Rasnake
Jan 08, 2010 Sam Rasnake rated it it was amazing
This collection has had a large impact on my own work - and led to one of my own poems. Great group of poems.
Melissa Jackson
Jan 22, 2011 Melissa Jackson rated it it was ok
My least favorite of R.H.'s poetry. Worth reading, of course, but lacking the eloquence of his other work.
Christine
Sep 19, 2007 Christine rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone and their brothers
Shelves: poetry
Oh my. This is just so excellent. Crazy forms, great humor, his amazing lists ... mine is signed.
Sarah
Apr 09, 2008 Sarah rated it really liked it
Shelves: recentlyread
Wonderful imagery and words to ponder about between the spaces of our lives. Highly recommend.
Todd
Mar 11, 2012 Todd rated it liked it
Not my favorite from Robert Hass, but still enjoyable. Love this writers style/voice.
Tracy O
Aug 20, 2007 Tracy O rated it liked it
Strangely my least favorite Hass book even though it's probably the most accessible.
Luis Alberto Arellano
Apr 08, 2008 Luis Alberto Arellano rated it it was amazing
Ahora que se ganó el pulitzer, es buen momento para releer a un gran poeta
Renée
Feb 26, 2010 Renée rated it it was amazing
I've read this book more than once and each time I get more depth.
John Rogers
Mar 20, 2007 John Rogers rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all
Shelves: enrichment
Wonderful, lush, conflicted, ironic, paradoxical. Great poetry.
Stuart Cooke
Aug 10, 2011 Stuart Cooke rated it liked it
Deeply and sadly disappointing.
Michael
Jun 28, 2008 Michael rated it really liked it
Beautiful beautiful beautiful.
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  • Black Zodiac
  • Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993
  • Desire: Poems
  • Elegy
  • Loose Sugar
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
  • Blue Hour
  • The Good Thief
  • Selected Poems
  • Song
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  • Donkey Gospel
  • New Selected Poems
  • The Figured Wheel: New and Collected Poems, 1966-1996
  • Above the River: The Complete Poems
  • Without End: New and Selected Poems
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Robert Hass was born in San Francisco and lives in Berkeley, California, where he teaches at the University of California. He served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997. A MacArthur Fellow and a two-time winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, he has published poems, literary essays, and translations. He is married to the poet Brenda Hillman.
More about Robert Hass...

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A Faint Music by Robert Hass

Maybe you need to write a poem about grace.

When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.

As in the story a friend told once about the time
he tried to kill himself. His girl had left him.
Bees in the heart, then scorpions, maggots, and then ash.
He climbed onto the jumping girder of the bridge,
the bay side, a blue, lucid afternoon.
And in the salt air he thought about the word “seafood,”
that there was something faintly ridiculous about it.
No one said “landfood.” He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch
he’d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass,
scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp
along the coast—and he realized that the reason for the word
was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise
the restaurants could just put “fish” up on their signs,
and when he woke—he’d slept for hours, curled up
on the girder like a child—the sun was going down
and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket
he’d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing
carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties
hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed.
A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick
with rage and grief. He knew more or less
where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill.
They’d have just finished making love. She’d have tears
in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. “God,”
she’d say, “you are so good for me.” Winking lights,
a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay.
“You’re sad,” he’d say. “Yes.” “Thinking about Nick?”
“Yes,” she’d say and cry. “I tried so hard,” sobbing now,
“I really tried so hard.” And then he’d hold her for a while—
Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall—
and then they’d fuck again, and she would cry some more,
and go to sleep.
And he, he would play that scene
once only, once and a half, and tell himself
that he was going to carry it for a very long time
and that there was nothing he could do
but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened
to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark
cracking and curling as the cold came up.

It’s not the story though, not the friend
leaning toward you, saying “And then I realized—,”
which is the part of stories one never quite believes.
I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.
And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps—
First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing”
31 likes
“When everything broken is broken,
and everything dead is dead,
and the hero has looked into the mirror with complete contempt,
and the heroine has studied her face and its defects
remorselessly, and the pain they thought might,
as a token of their earnestness, release them from themselves
has lost its novelty and not released them,
and they have begun to think, kindly and distantly,
watching the others go about their days—
likes and dislikes, reasons, habits, fears—
that self-love is the one weedy stalk
of every human blossoming, and understood,
therefore, why they had been, all their lives,
in such a fury to defend it, and that no one—
except some almost inconceivable saint in his pool
of poverty and silence—can escape this violent, automatic
life’s companion ever, maybe then, ordinary light,
faint music under things, a hovering like grace appears.”
2 likes
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