"In Bed" with Robert Hass

Posted by Goodreads on April 5, 2010
In celebration of National Poetry Month, Goodreads hopped "in bed" with decorated poet Robert Hass. The former Poet Laureate (1995-1997) was awarded the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for Time and Materials, a collection of poetry that ranges in subject from the Iraq War to the natural landscape of Hass's native California. His new collection, The Apple Trees at Olema, experiments with elegy and narrative. The longtime UC Berkeley professor describes himself as "an omnivore as a reader of poetry" and recommends books by "voices I really do return to and wouldn't want to live without."

John Donne
Preferred Edition: The Complete Poetry and Selected Prose of John Donne (Modern Library). "Donne—the tone of his voice in the love poems—was one of the first voices in poetry that felt entirely alive to me and burned its way into my head. For depth, richness, intensity, human complexity, subtlety of thought, wit, surprise, he is inexhaustible."

Gerard Manley Hopkins
Preferred Edition: The Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins (Oxford Paperbacks). "Hopkins may be the most purely gorgeous poet in the language. It's a small body of work, and he really has only three tones: an excited happiness, and tenderness, and despair. But I never take his poems from the shelf without being wakened up by them."

Walt Whitman
"I just edited a selection of the poems Song of Myself and Other Poems published by Counterpoint Press. But any edition of Leaves of Grass will do. I go to Whitman for life and invention in language and the depth of his feeling for the sheer abundance and variety of life. He got more of his world into his poems, I think, than any poet since Shakespeare."

Emily Dickinson
"Readers have to choose between The Complete Poems, edited by Thomas Johnson—that's the book I grew up on—and The Poems of Emily Dickinson, edited recently by R.W. Franklin, who took a fresh look at Emily Dickinson's manuscripts and made some revisions in the order of the poems and in the poems themselves. There is also a lovely Shambala Dickinson designed for the pocket and edited by my wife, Brenda Hillman, which is perfect for carrying around. For depth, for wit, for purity and strangeness of imagination, for the soul's dark hours, for its daily brightnesses, Dickinson has very few peers. I've been a little slow to see just how amazing she is. Reading her, thinking you know all the best poems, you keep finding new and surprising things."

George Oppen
Preferred Edition: The New Collected Poems (New Directions). "I could have made four or five lists of 20th century poets—five French poets, five Polish poets, five American modernists, five Latin American poets, etc. But one poet—with the criteria that (1) I wouldn't want to live without a volume of the poems at hand, and (2) that I take that book down from the shelf often to remind myself of a scent that matters to me in poetry. Oppen published one small book in the early '30s, set writing aside to do political work, served in the infantry in France in the Second World War, came back, and after 25 years, took up the work of poetry again. His idiom is spare, he means to say what he knows, as simply as possible, and the simpler the poems the more mysterious they are. For clear water, a scrupulousness of mind, I turn to Oppen."

Comments Showing 1-13 of 13 (13 new)

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message 1: by Joanne (new)

Joanne thank you so very much for this review of poets, I agree so much, and there are a few I would add. Myself included! (Hubris)

message 2: by Beth (new)

Beth Coffelt Great thanks to whoever sent me this first moment with "Goodreads" with the interview with Robert Hass.
I had an experience with Robert Hass years ago
that I have never forgotten - I'd called him to check on some obscure Shakespeare punctuation - a bit like phoning up God to get the the varietal of the gourd he caused to bedevil Jonah - and the good and great Berkeley poet fell right in with the mood of hushed excitement - dropping everything to muck around in Shakespeare. Poetry is glory.
No other word for it.
I take that back.
Onward - Beth Coffelt

message 3: by Joanne (new)

Joanne Yay! Onward. JOAnne

message 4: by Jefferson (new)

Jefferson Carter Well, yes, Joanne, that IS hubris. There are SO many good poets now writing. For instance, I can't even kick over a stone here in Tucson without uncovering a poet. There are also a lot of crappy ones cranking out the dreck across the country. . I don't love poetry. I love good poetry! And Donne is my man.

message 5: by Joanne (new)

Joanne I guess I can afford it as I am 79 and no longer care about so many little things. I love Donne too, he is a poet of the heart and of the mind. He comforts my soul. I forget to mention I am a painter first. Southern CA.

message 6: by Jefferson (last edited May 02, 2011 09:43PM) (new)

Jefferson Carter Wow! 79! I'm impressed. I'm 67 and feeling a little creaky these days. I've just returned from reading my poetry in Prescott, a little town 180 miles north of Tucson. All went well until the open mic; a teenager stood up and emoted about her suffering, one terrible poem after another. Sylvia Plath has a lot to answer for! Thank god for poets like Dickinson and Hass to rinse the bad taste out of one's mouth after an artistic abortion!!

message 7: by Joanne (new)

Joanne i guess I don't much want you to read my poetry. I'm told i"m a good painter though. I would be interested in reading one of your poems, one you really like...

message 8: by Jefferson (new)

Jefferson Carter Joanne, here's a poem from my new book from Chax Prerss. I hope you like it. JC


Lightning, then, of course, thunder.
We can get used to anything.
The window, lit up, shakes
& we’re comforted, pulling
the blankets to our chins. The dog,
half-blind, diabetic, fat as a woodchuck,
burrows between us, panting,
trembling like she’s never heard
thunder before. Maybe she hasn’t,
she lives so much in the moment.
Here’s her day: I was in. Now I’m out.
I was out. Now I’m in. You going
to eat that? You going to eat that?
I’ll eat that! Here’s her night so far:
What’s that? Thunder. What’s that?
Thunder. What’s that? Thunder.

message 9: by Joanne (new)

Joanne hey, I love your poem. I'm going to show it to my friends who have a dog. They will laugh. I just have cats. They are independent mostly and selfish, not generous at all. Such a lovely time in bed. Thank you for writing it. I'm going to look for your book. I hesitate to say it, but I sadly don't like the title of the Press? Or did you mean Chax Press? Never mind. JoAnne

message 10: by Jefferson (new)

Jefferson Carter Joanne, the press is Chax Press (chax.org). The dog poem is from my 2007 book "Sentimental Blue." The new book, "My Kind of Animal," has some cat poems in it. If you'd like an autographed copy and save a few dollars from ordering online, send me $13 and I'll whip a copy back to you (Jefferson Carter, 935 N. Olsen Ave., Tucson, AZ, 85719). Whether you buy the book or not, I'm very pleased you enjoyed the poem; it's so satisfying when one of my pieces pleases a reader.

message 11: by Joanne (new)

Joanne I would, I will and I intend to check and see if it is whipped! It is so warming to find someone really likes your work. Like receiving love and passing it on. JoAnne

message 12: by Hadeel (new)

Hadeel poetry is a ladder on which the poets up and the imitators down. The ones who are down cannot move up with the help of all the scientific steps in the grand institutions of creative writing, but at least they can learn that there are poets up by birth.I love poetry, when poetry is sweet water.

message 13: by Alisa (new)

Alisa Rana i guess I don't much want you to read my poetry. I'm told i"m a good painter though. I would be interested in reading one of your poems, one you really like. I have found a company which provides Warehouse Insurance to business owners

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