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ISSN 1409-6900 | UDK 82+7     Blesok no. 58 | volume XI | January-February, 2008



                     Peer-reviewed journal
Blesok no. 58January-February, 2008

Weighty truths, lightly

p. 2
Cynthia Haven

words, “Beauty is sexual, and sexuality / Is the fertility of the earth and the fertility / Of the earth is economics.” In 22 lines that are already surfacing on blogs and websites, the World Bank arranges the funds for a dam that floods 300 villages, sending displaced villagers into Bangkok, where their daughters turn to prostitution. The epiphanic connection sparks like lightning between Pound’s aesthetics, the Thai dam, and the teenage prostitute who confronts the poet and says, “in plausible English, / ‘How about a party, big guy?’”.
    Hass was born in San Francisco in 1941; in a state full of émigrés and Johnny-come-latelies, that in itself makes him something of an anomaly. He earned his doctorate in English at Stanford, where he studied with the university’s ensconced curmudgeon, the iconoclastic and prescient poet-critic Yvor Winters. Eminent poet and poetry kingmaker Stanley Kunitz anointed Hass a Yale Younger Poet, the best launch this country provides for its emerging poets; through the award, Hass saw his first collection, Field Guide, published in 1973. Hass received a MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” in 1984. He was the West Coast’s first U.S. poet laureate, serving from 1995 to 1997. He’s taught at UC Berkeley since 1989.
    His books of poetry, however, have been few and far between: Field Guide in 1973, Praise in 1979, Human Wishes in 1989, Sun Under Wood in 1996—this in an era when poets are prized for productivity and pump out a volume every few years. Hass confesses that he is slow and painstaking; his publisher says he has to pry manuscripts from Hass’s hands, and fans are begging for more poems by the time a volume appears.
    No one can claim that Hass is anything but productive, though. He’s one of our most tireless translators, anthologists, and essayists. His Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (1984) won a National Book Critics Circle Award, and even as Time and Materials was being prepared for publication, East Bay publishers Shoemaker & Hoard issued Now and Then: The Poet’s Choice Columns, 1997–2000, the weekly columns Hass started in the Washington Post Book World during his stint as poet laureate.
    Hass is one of the small cadre of poets who also have public prominence for nonliterary reasons. He’s on the Board of Directors of the International Rivers Network, which opposes destructive dams, and he cofounded River of Words, a perfectly named organization that promotes literacy, the

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