Robert Hass, aka The Bard of Berkeley

Robert
Hass, aka The Bard of Berkeley
1941

American Poet, Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Environmentalist and Teacher, United States Poet Laureate, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley,

Author Quotes

Another problem about writing about politics in the ?age of globalization? is that so much of the violence in the form of war and also in the forms of institutional violence?sweatshops, child labor, victimization of people economically?happens elsewhere and out of sight. And when we do know about it and need to witness it, it?s always mediated by images of one kind or another, so you?re kind of stuck trying to write about what it?s like trying to be you living your life thinking about and experiencing this stuff in that way. That is, one way to escape the universe in which everything is a kind of media cartoon is to write about the part of your life that doesn?t feel like a cartoon, and how the cartoon comes into it.

Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances.

The love of books is for children who glimpse in them a life to come, but I have come to that life and feel uneasy with the love of books. This is my life, time islanded in poems of dwindled time.

August is dust here. Drought stuns the road, but juice gathers in the berries.

No one said landfood. He thought it was degrading to the rainbow perch he?d reeled in gleaming from the cliffs, the black rockbass, scales like polished carbon, in beds of kelp along the coast?and he realized that the reason for the word was crabs, or mussels, clams. Otherwise the restaurants could just put fish up on their signs, and when he woke?he?d slept for hours, curled upon the girder like a child?the sun was going down and he felt a little better, and afraid. He put on the jacket he?d used for a pillow, climbed over the railing carefully, and drove home to an empty house.

The proliferation is good. The professionalization of poetry, or the balkanization, has come out of the fact that when you apply to most creative writing programs, you have to choose your genre. And so, at twenty-one, someone who wants to write is signing up for two years of committing themselves to write poetry or fiction or nonfiction. There are very few programs in which you can cross over. On the one hand, the reasons make sense to me. If you?re going to take your shot for two years at writing something, concentrate and write something, and of course many people who begin in one genre end up in another. But on the whole, it probably funnels people into a specialty too soon.

But usually not. Usually she thinks of the path to his house, whether deer had eaten the tops of the fiddleheads, why they don't eat the peppermint saprophytes sprouting along the creek; or she visualizes the approach to the cabin, its large windows, the fuchsias in front of it where Anna's hummingbirds always hover with dirty green plumage and jeweled throats. Sometimes she thinks about her dream, the one in which her mother wakes up with no hands. The cabin smells of oil paint, but also of pine. The painter's touch is sexual and not sexual, as she herself is....When the memory of that time came to her, it was touched by strangeness because it formed no pattern with the other events in her life. It lay in her memory like one piece of broken tile, salmon-colored or the deep green of wet leaves, beautiful in itself but unusable in the design she was making

Nostalgia locates desire in the past where it suffers no active conflict and can be yearned toward pleasantly.

The whole difference between the nineteenth century and the twentieth century could be summed up in two words, graveyard and cemetery.

Golf is a worrier's game, inward, concentrated, a matter of inches, invented by the same people who gave us Presbyterianism.

One may prefer spring and summer to autumn and winter, but preference is hardly to the point. The earth turns, and we live in the grain of nature, turning with it.

There are moments when the body is as numinous as words, days that are the good flesh continuing. Such tenderness, those afternoons and evenings, saying blackberry, blackberry, blackberry.

I find Pound difficult to teach because I always feel as though I have to include the caveat that he was a virulent anti-Semite and fascist sympathizer.

One of the things I felt like with ?Bush?s War? is that it wasn?t so much the argument of weapons of mass destruction that made me feel so crazy about the war?even though I knew, and almost anybody I knew also knew, that there weren?t any weapons of mass destruction?but that he was able to stand up in public and say that he, personally, had made the decision to liberate the Iraqi people. That meant he made the decision to get?let?s say he had conservative estimates at that time?10,000 to 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians killed in order to liberate the nation of Iraq and bring them democracy. Let?s say that the Pentagon told him that they thought that they could bring this thing off with only 10,000 civilian casualties. At least, he ought to have had to line them all up on the White House lawn and shoot 10,000 people and say, ?You didn?t get to vote on this, but the rest of Iraq is going to get to be free, and I think this is the greater good.? It just made me crazy, that argument, and I didn?t see anybody contesting it. Maybe the left didn?t bother to contest it because it was so outrageous, but I just wanted to say someplace in plain English that those people didn?t get to vote on their deaths.

There was a pair of her lemon yellow panties hanging on a doorknob. He studied them. Much-washed. A faint russet in the crotch that made him sick with rage and grief. He knew more or less where she was. A flat somewhere on Russian Hill. They?d have just finished making love. She?d have tears in her eyes and touch his jawbone gratefully. God, she?d say, you are so good for me. Winking lights, a foggy view downhill toward the harbor and the bay. You?re sad, he?d say. Yes. Thinking about Nick? Yes, she?d say and cry. I tried so hard, sobbing now, I really tried so hard. And then he?d hold her for a while? Guatemalan weavings from his fieldwork on the wall? and then they?d fuck again, and she would cry some more, and go to sleep. And he, he would play that scene once only, once and a half, and tell himself that he was going to carry it for a very long time and that there was nothing he could do but carry it. He went out onto the porch, and listened to the forest in the summer dark, madrone bark cracking and curling as the cold came up. It?s not the story though, not the friend leaning toward you, saying And then I realized?, which is the part of stories one never quite believes. I had the idea that the world?s so full of pain it must sometimes make a kind of singing. And that the sequence helps, as much as order helps? First an ego, and then pain, and then the singing

I think that the job of poetry, its political job, is to refresh the idea of justice, which is going dead in us all the time.

One way to escape the universe in which everything is a kind of media cartoon is to write about the part of your life that doesn?t feel like a cartoon, and how the cartoon comes into it.

What would you do if you were me? she said. If I were you-you, or if I were you-me? If you were me-me. If I were you-you, he said, I'd do exactly what you're doing.

I wouldn?t feel guilty about not writing about Baghdad if I didn?t have any good ideas about how to write about it.

Poetry is a fireplace in summer or a fan in winter.

When I was in college, I lost my scholarship one year. I had enough money for tuition, but not room and board. So I camped in the hills.

If you were making poetry out of convictions?you were in the territory of rhetoric, and that wasn?t the territory of poetry.

So few things we need to know. And the old wisdoms shudder in us and grow slack. Like renunciation. Like the melancholy beauty of giving it all up. Like walking steadfast in the rhythms, winter light and summer dark. And the time for cutting furrows and the dance.

When I was in high school in the '50s you were supposed to be an Elvis Presley, a James Dean, a Marlon Brando or a Kingston Trio type in a button-down shirt headed for the fraternities at Stanford or Cal.

Imagination runs through the places where we live like water. We need both things-a living knowledge of the land and a live imagination of it and our place in it- if we are going to preserve it.

Author Picture
First Name
Robert
Last Name
Hass, aka The Bard of Berkeley
Birth Date
1941
Bio

American Poet, Pulitzer Prize Winning Poet Environmentalist and Teacher, United States Poet Laureate, Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley,