Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Human Wishes” as Want to Read:
Human Wishes
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Human Wishes

4.26  ·  Rating Details  ·  750 Ratings  ·  42 Reviews
Poems deal with language, desire, suffering, art, human relationships, and mortality
Paperback, 96 pages
Published June 1st 1990 by Ecco (first published 1989)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Human Wishes, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Human Wishes

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,155)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Jan 23, 2011 Brooke rated it liked it
The shorter poems ended too abruptly and the longer poems, with their stream of consciousness drift between the meta and concrete, felt klunky and not particularly revelatory, the digression evasive and unsatisfying. Maybe I don't share Hass' preoccupations (they often felt dated), but he didn't make much new for me. There were some pleasurable turns of thought, like in Berkeley Eclogue.
Dec 03, 2007 Helena rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone from northern california; anyone who, you know, cares about literature & its future
Shelves: essentials
my boyfriend studied with robert haas in grad school. my dad lives in the same neighborhood as robert haas and keeps meeting him at uc berkeley lectures where they end up seated together. when my dad and my boyfriend met, they bonded by unceasingly talking about robert haas as "bob." this sounds slightly obnxious, but this book really, really, really makes you want to call robert haas "bob." It makes you want to sit on a porch in northern california with him and eat mangoes with your hands. It m ...more
Dec 27, 2015 Shannon rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

At first, I wasn't sure what to make of Hass' poetry. The poems were long--some of them pages--composed of statements. "She had bobbed hair ..." "He must have received a disability check. ..." "The main course is French, loin of pork probably, with a North African accent, and very good." Knowing that good writers show, not tell, and avoid statements, I began to to wonder if Robert Hass was overrated and almost did not finish the book of poems.

On second re-reading, I fell in love wit
Jul 12, 2014 Helen rated it it was amazing
Robert Hass's poems are soft and emotional. A gorgeous weaving of life, tiny snapshots of landscapes described in such detail to make every day domestic scenes seem wondrous.

Some of hte poems in this collection follow a traditional, blank verse form, but my favorites are the prose poems, brushing ever so lightly the line between the poetic and flash fiction. In one of my favorites, Quartet, a dinner party of four is described in such a way:

... The main course is
French, loin of pork probably, wi
Chanel Earl
Feb 03, 2015 Chanel Earl rated it really liked it
There are perfect poems in this collection, poems that are accessible, meaningful, beautiful, sad, joyful. I could go on.

The second section (prose poems) was particularly wonderful. I also enjoyed the fourth section a lot.

There are poems in this collection that didn't speak to me at all, and I wonder if they will later in life, or if they would have 5 or 10 years ago.

Great book.
Bradley Harrison
May 13, 2010 Bradley Harrison rated it it was amazing
"The archbishop of San Salvador is dead, murdered by no one knows / who. The left says the right, the right says provocateurs. // But the families in the barrios sleep with their children beside them and / a pitchfork, or a rifle if they have one. // And posterity is grubbing in the footnotes to find out who the bishops is, // or waiting for the poet to get back to his business. Well, there's this: // her breasts are the color of brown stones in moonlight, and paler in / moonlight. // And that s ...more
Mar 11, 2008 Steven rated it really liked it
In these lush and intelligent poems, Robert Hass explores several human dichotomies, being most concerned with the chasm between what humans desire and what the reality of those realized desires is comparatively. He also investigates aging (“January,” 34-36), the contrast between suffering in the United States and the global view of suffering (“Museum,” 18), and the connectedness of the natural world and human actions (“Spring Rain,” 7-8, “Human Wishes,” 23). Hass is a technical virtuoso, movin ...more
Feb 23, 2010 Matt added it

You know what it is about Bob Hass? He gets the ratio of things to ideas in a poem just right, according to some ancient formula, with a result that can be perfect, but also perfectly bland. But he's smart, especially in this book, to make the voice speak with a human frankness that folds back the edges of the page to reveal more dimensions of the poem.

Hass's poems, from a wider vantage, limn a certain bourgeois morality with absolute precision, and by defining its limits, critiques them. But
Jun 20, 2014 Cheryl rated it it was amazing
That first poem, "Spring Drawing," always pulls me in.
Sep 22, 2015 William rated it it was amazing
Dec 27, 2007 Jay rated it it was amazing
Well I hacen't read a Robert Hass book I think is perfect.

This one doesn't have the stretched-out, conversational, biographical poems of Sun Under Wood -- nothing like "Regalia For a Black Hat Dancer" or "English: an Ode" -- but it does have some buzzy, mysterious, beautiful, liquid-seeming poems; the whole last section of the book is incredible. Of the prose poems, "A Story About the Body" is unfortunately way far the best, although I still love "Duck Blind" too.
Katie Herring
Feb 07, 2015 Katie Herring rated it liked it
Shelves: verse
These were soft and sad, beautiful lines, and stories tinged with sorrow.

I only had to reaction section 1 and 2 for class on Tuesday, but I read them all.

After class I'll have more to say.

Ronald Wise
An interesting collection of poetry, often touching on the dynamics of family life. I found the most interesting the ones where Hass seems eager to wax poetic, and his thoughts are interrupted with troubling observations of his own children. I learned of this poetry collection from a tribute to Hass's birthday (02/28/1941) on Garrison Keillor's Writer's Almanac.
Nov 21, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2010
Woah. Really dense, pretty amazing, and kind of over my head. So many beautiful lines. "Her breasts are the color of brown stones in moonlight and paler in moonlight." Amazing. Mostly poetry, but also an absolute balance of poetry and prose. But mostly poetry. Kind of don't even know what to make of it. Just woke up from a nap, for one thing.
Edward Nudelman
Jan 11, 2012 Edward Nudelman rated it really liked it
A great poet, but sometimes I find his poems a bit thick, a bit arduous to wade through. But I've learned a lot through reading Hass. He's been criticized for not being broad enough, and I think that's somewhat founded. But what he does, he does well. This is one of my favorite Hass compilations.
Mar 16, 2008 Shelby rated it it was amazing
Shelves: college, poetry
This was a difficult read, but so worth it to me after I fought my way through it. Well worth reading about fifteen times (it's short, so that's not ridiculous). His experiments with prose poetry are fascinating and add a completely different dimension to the book.
Jan 02, 2016 Hannah rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american, poetry
This is my favorite of Hass's works, with some of the most heart-wrenching, mind-exploding, carefully crafted poems I have ever read. His mastery of imagery and his subtle, emotional verse make him undoubtedly one of the greatest living poets today.
Jonathan Hiskes
Dec 19, 2012 Jonathan Hiskes rated it liked it
I showed a friend an essay draft and he said to turn it into a prose poem. I read Hass to learn was a prose poem is. This is a book of deceptively casual scene sketches that calls to mind Nabokov: "Caress the detail. The divine detail."
Julie Overman
Jan 04, 2008 Julie Overman rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, devastating poetry. About the distances between people, experiences, perspectives. Poems I'll never forget: Privilege of Being, A Story About the Body, Paschal Lamb. I want to send my cut-off fingers to the shuddering angels
Mar 17, 2008 Rachel rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone
I love this book so much.

These lines run through my head all the time:

"...because desires do not split themselves up,
there is one desire, touching the many things,
and it is continuous."

-from "Natural Theology"

Jul 25, 2011 Celeste rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, faves
Brilliant and spotty. Some of my absolute favorite poems in the entire english language ("A Story About the Body," for example) are in this book, but they're bookended by some less engaging pieces.
Michael Mingo
Nov 14, 2013 Michael Mingo rated it really liked it
It's worth reading for "Berkeley Eclogue" alone: great use of end-stopping, repetition, and dialogue/inner-monologue. It's six pages of brilliance that raises the entire project.
Feb 27, 2008 W.B. rated it it was ok
I really like the prose poem where the artist leaves him the bowl of dead bees after his sexual rebuff.

That one was good.

But so much of this book is not good at all.
Jun 07, 2008 Tricia rated it it was amazing
your life is incomplete until you read "story about the body". i'm so fucking serious about this. read this with ripe peaches by an open window in your kitchen.
Vicky Skinner (mynameisbibliophile)
I'm riding the line with this one. I liked about 50% of the poems. I'm not sure how I felt about the rest of them. Perhaps this just wasn't my cup of tea.
Sep 10, 2013 Christian rated it liked it
"I felt like a stranger to my life /
and it scared me..." so I clung to conventional verse and stayed inside the body.
Jul 29, 2011 Elena rated it it was amazing
This book contains some of my favorite prose poems. Check out Paschal Lamb and a Story about the Body.
Dec 12, 2007 Kaihermann rated it really liked it
the very first poem is my favorite but there are lots of highlights in this book. it's a nice, gentle read.
Aug 07, 2008 Farren rated it liked it
I was going to recommend this book to Becky, but I'm suddenly wondering if she hasn't already read it.
Mar 20, 2008 Kathy rated it really liked it
Another master poet . . . My favortie poem in this book is entitled, "Privilege of Being.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 38 39 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Dream of the Unified Field: Selected Poems, 1974-1994
  • Hinge & Sign: Poems, 1968-1993
  • Interior with Sudden Joy: Poems
  • Elegy
  • Song
  • The World Doesn't End
  • Black Zodiac
  • My Alexandria
  • Desire: Poems
  • Skid
  • Sleeping With the Dictionary
  • The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart: Poems
  • Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry
  • The First Four Books of Poems
  • The Country Between Us
  • Selected Poems
  • And Her Soul Out Of Nothing
  • Sad Little Breathing Machine
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...

Share This Book

No trivia or quizzes yet. Add some now »

“But usually not. Usually she thinks of the path to his house, whether deer had eaten the tops of the fiddleheads, why they don't eat the peppermint saprophytes sprouting along the creek; or she visualizes the approach to the cabin, its large windows, the fuchsias in front of it where Anna's hummingbirds always hover with dirty green plumage and jeweled throats. Sometimes she thinks about her dream, the one in which her mother wakes up with no hands. The cabin smells of oil paint, but also of pine. The painter's touch is sexual and not sexual, as she herself is....When the memory of that time came to her, it was touched by strangeness because it formed no pattern with the other events in her life. It lay in her memory like one piece of broken tile, salmon-coloured or the deep green of wet leaves, beautiful in itself but unusable in the design she was making” 3 likes
More quotes…