Poetry Friday: Getting sideswiped by NBA winner Robert Hass

h1 November 16th, 2007 by eisha

Congratulations to Robert Hass, winner of the 2007 National Book Award in Poetry, for his book Time and Materials.

Here’s an excerpt of a very cool poem of his, “Interrupted Meditation:”

Little green involute fronds of fern at creekside.
And the sinewy clear water rushing over creekstone
of the palest amber, veined with a darker gold,
thinnest lines of gold rivering through the amber
like—ah, now we come to it. We were not put on earth,
the old man said, he was hacking into the crust
of a sourdough half loaf in his vehement, impatient way
with an old horn-handled knife, to express ourselves.
I knew he had seen whole cities leveled: also
that there had been a time of shame for him, outskirts
of a ruined town, half Baroque, half Greek Revival,
pediments of Flora and Hygeia from a brief eighteenth-century
health spa boom lying on the streets in broken chunks
and dogs scavenging among them. His one act of courage
then had been to drop pieces of bread or chocolate,
as others did, where a fugitive family of Jews
was rumored to be hiding. I never raised my voice,
of course, none of us did.
He sliced wedges of cheese
after the bread, spooned out dollops of sour jam
from some Hungarian plum, purple and faintly gingered.

Time and MaterialsClick here to read the rest.

I love the way the poem jumps around in a very stream-of-consciousness way, just like the title implies. And I love the little hidden daggers of emotional poignancy, like the image of the whitened chocolate, or the heaving his wife’s rib cage as she sobs. It’s like he keeps getting sideswiped by his own heart. Beautiful, powerful, and clever without being cloying. That’s what I like in a poem.

Congrats to the other NBA winners as well, particularly Sherman Alexie – I’m reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian right now, and I’m totally digging it.

4 comments to “Poetry Friday: Getting sideswiped by NBA winner Robert Hass”

  1. Thanks, Eisha. I was so into reading about Alexie’s win that I neglected to check out the poetry winner, too. What a gorgeous cover that book has! And I like the ending of the poem, where the poet admits to ending it how he wants to.

  2. God, that’s gorgeous. I love the tying-together of the various pasts, and theories of poetry and theories of religion/what is at the end, and of the endings. I will have to look for his book, of course, to see what new poems it holds. And the cover is almost reason enough to bring it home.

  3. Thanks, ladies. It is a delicious cover, isn’t it?

  4. I’m really slow in getting to this, but it was worth the wait. I’m going to have to read that about five more times, but it was almost breathtaking the first time.

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