Regarding Michael Robbins’s comment that Robert Hass “thinks that merely intoning the names of things can replace the hard work of description,” I’d like to point Robbins’s attention to his own invocation of what he believes, through an even simpler act of naming:
Like Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, and Sharon Olds—in their different ways—Hass has made a career out of flattering middlebrow sensibilities with cheap mystery. Unlike those poets, Hass has real talent.
Surely the hard work of argument isn’t beneath the reviewer, but he’s wasting his time with this brief ad hominem attack on a few popular contemporary poets. What’s worse, the attack doesn’t serve the larger argument of the review, unless Robbins’s point is that Hass’s reputation is undeserved by the very fact that people like his books?