LITERATURE

What Light Can Do:

Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World
. 2012. 496p. 978-0-06192-239-0. 14.99.
COPY ISBN
Poet Hass (English; Univ. of Calif., Berkeley), a former U.S. poet laureate, presents a selection of his lectures, reviews, and essays written between 1985 and the present. He discusses poems, poets, and photographers. Most but not all are about moderns. (There are essays on America’s first poet, Edward Taylor (d. 1729), and on Jack London, as well as Anton Chekhov.) Hass’s background, which includes work in academia and as a translator (including of seven books by Czeslaw Milosz) as well as his work as poet-practitioner, serves well in these essays: he intuits what poets are trying to do and what the student needs to appreciate them. Even the slightest of essays (four on photographers are more description than analysis) offer gems of insight. The best are as good as you’ll find anywhere.
VERDICT Lovers of poetry, especially modern poetry, will enjoy this book. It holds together more than most collections of occasional pieces.

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