Robert Hass: The Poet's Poet
Reading pitches from poets about possible articles. Talking to poets about who they read. Noticing which poets are frequently referenced in articles we publish. One name keeps surfacing—Robert Hass. Why does his work appeal to poets and readers from across generations and aesthetic schools? PoetryFoundation.org editors asked five poets to share their favorite Hass poem with our readers and explain why. We’ve added the poems to our online archive.
I like any poem whose authority rests on surprising grounds, but Robert Hass’s “Dragonflies Mating” belongs to the rare class of poems whose authority actually shifts, turns upon itself, in mid-course.
Thomas Sayers Ellis
I discovered “Measure” while I was learning to write poems, and I immediately liked the lonely meaning and the lonely breathing of the title.
I’ve been thinking for a few weeks about “A Supple Wreath of Myrtle,” which will appear in his new book of poems next year. The piece is short, only 12 lines long; a poem of this length, if it is good, has to be a model of economy.
Like many Robert Hass poems, “Faint Music” is a meditative pool fed by numerous tributaries—story, song, anecdote, allusion, deduction, induction, both the Buddhist koan and the Christian parable.
Whatever you choose to call that thing which mere palaver erodes—soul, psyche, self, tranquility, or simply meaning—“Meditation at Lagunitas” is one of the poems that can save you.