three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
32-Jan-Feb-2008
By: 
Robert Hass
user_rating: 
0

A-Time and MaterialsIn 44 poems ranging from a few lines to a few pages, Robert Hass juxtaposes the beauty of the natural world with the complexities of mass culture. Sharing his views on myriad topics-art, movies, vegetables, desire, language, politics, memory, and global warming-he explores the passage of time, both personal and historical. While offering a clear-eyed view of his mother's alcoholism and father's melancholy, he deplores the mass violence of the past century ("Sweet death, the scourer, the tender / Lover, shutter of eyelids, turns / The heaped bodies into summer fruit.") But artists-from Gerhard Richter to Johannes Vermeer-transcend the material, for "The painter gets to behave like time."
Ecco. 88 pages. $22.95. ISBN: 0061349607

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"'Mouth Slightly Open' is glorious and strange as it captures a moment of the natural world. ... There are 44 worth-waiting-for poems in this first book in 10 years." Isabel Nathaniel

Kenyon Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Never has the war or the consequences of the mechanization of war been so much in the forefront. ... For now, my favorite poem in the collection is 'I am Your Waiter Tonight and My Name is Dmitri.' The poem is a wash of detail, stream of consciousness style, free-flowing." Tyler Meier

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"The title suggests more hopefully that poetry is a craft, like carpentry: this book contains Hass's best and most careful verse in almost 30 years. ... Poems about paintings and painters, in particular, let Hass set his ruminative temperament, his wish to consider art as an open-ended process, against our wish to see works of art as finished things." Stephen Burt

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"Deft variations of approach and imagination keep these poems moving. Their amplitude measures up to their classic subject: the passage of time, on both historical and personal levels. ... These masterly, compressed poems from Hass's book indicate the scope and sharpness of the whole." Robert Pinsky

Slate 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Time and Materials, Robert Hass' fifth collection of poems, is a book about hitting the cold water of late middle age, but the story it tells is not so much of decline as of reinvention. ... It's surprising that Hass' new collection, his first since stepping down as laureate, makes poetry and politics bedfellows." Nathan Heller

Cleveland Plain Dealer 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Hass writes about sex as often as ever, but the thrill, as another poet once put it, is gone. ... Hass gives a better sense of poetry's scope in his shorter, haiku-like poems." David Lucas

Critical Summary

Robert Hass, poet laureate of the United States between 1995 and 1997 and author of the popular Poet's Choice newspaper column, surprised critics with his fifth collection of verse. As eloquent and inventive as in his previous collections, here Hass for the first time tackles public and private issues-from his unhappy mother in "The World as Will and Representation" to his antiwar stance in "Bush's War" and in other poems. Charting such territory generally pleased critics, though a few described these poems as polemics, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer remarked that "the acrobatic risks consistently landed" better in previous collections. A few misses, perhaps, but otherwise a sublime collection from America's poet. n