978-0-88001-468-7 / 9780880014687

Sun Under Wood





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About the book:

Robert Hass's Sun Under Wood, his fourth poetry collection in 25 years and the winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award, appeared in the middle of his high-profile stint as poet laureate of the United States. Putting into practice the ars poetica of his Twentieth Century Pleasures essays, these poems gain altitude through association with each other, especially the clever division of labor between "Layover" and "Notes on 'Layover.'" The concerns of the book expand and contract, offering up such memorable passages as the third stanza of "Our Lady of the Snows":

Though mostly when I think of myself
at that age, I am standing at my older brother's closet
studying the shirts,
convinced that I could be absolutely transformed
by something I could borrow.
And the days churned by,
navigable sorrow.
Aside from sounding an unexpected rhyme, this "navigable sorrow" betrays Hass as a poet of sensibility. What elevates him from preciousness is a powerful need to engage and indulge--to "navigate"--memories of his alcoholic mother and his own painful divorce. Sun Under Wood, in other words, is the book Robert Lowell would have written had he grown up in California. The raccoon Hass confronts in "Iowa City: Early April" seems to have stepped right out of Lowell's "Skunk Hour," but instead of moaning, "I myself am hell ... nobody's here," Hass muses, "That his experience of his being and mine of his and his of mine were things entirely apart, / ...And as for my experience of myself, it comes and goes, I'm not sure it's any one thing...." Such universal emotions are hard to find words for, but throughout Sun Under WoodHass speaks with a clear, disturbing, and urgent voice. --Edward Skoog

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