Robert Hass: A Poetry Wizard

Meditation at Lagunitas, a Robert Hass classic, changed the way I write poetry. Every time I read it, I grasp something I missed before. On my first read, I grasped this emotional connection but to what I wasn’t sure. This idea of making the reader feel something they didn’t know existed within them, nor know how or why, was new and brilliant to me. I soon fell into the trap, which is intentionally set from the beginning, of being so intrigued I had to know how Hass was able to pull this emotional connection out of me, although I barely understood the context of the poem at the time. Once I read the poem a second time, I found evidence in the subtle switch from a macro, philosophical view of the world to another view that was much more micro and personal. The poem starts out, “All of the new thinking is about loss” and from there builds upon human experience which creates the series of lines, “But I remember so much, the way her hands dismantled bread/ the thing her father said that hurt her, what/ she dreamed”. The switch adds layers to what could have been a simple poem.

Typically, my own poems are about human experiences, but I am always looking for ways to make them more dynamic than what is on the surface. I find myself so inspired by Hass’ ability to do this, that I tend to follow suit by building upon the experience with more than the physical. Suddenly salt is describing the faults and impurities in a relationship. Light is no longer so happy, types of light take the form of the darkness and showcase the ugly and unmanageable parts about being in a relationship. I do this in trying to master the flow of reality with other-worldly, macro and micro, that Hass showcases in all his poems.

In the poem Misery and Splendor, Hass uses setting to create juxtaposing images. With lines like, “Morning, maybe it is evening…” and “Outside,/ the day is slowly succeeded by night,/ succeeded by day…”, the reader is imagining conflicting images. One light and beautiful and another dark and long. This allows the reader to feel the confusion, the back and forth, the speaker and the character of the poem feels. The confusion of most human-to-human interactions. Hass also plays with time. In some parts of the poem, there is this splendor in how quickly time is passing by and in others you feel the misery in how slow time is moving. All of this represents the what-could-have-been and what-is central idea of the poem. With all these dynamics, there has to be some kind of grounding factor. In the case of Misery and Splendor Hass contains the dynamics with this everlasting image of light and his use of statements. The quality of light dictates how intensity of a moment. This couple is in this other room where light is “flowing” through it but the statement goes to say, “They feel themselves at the center of a powerful/ and baffled will…”.

Reading any of Robert Hass’ poems, I am put into the mindset of what truly mastered craft is. I find that the more I read of his poems, the more it is natural for me to incorporate his techniques into my own writing and that has gotten me through a lot of rough patches in my writing. Whenever I find a new technique used in a Hass poem, I immediately try to incorporate that same technique into my own poems.

Lex Hamilton, Co-Marketing Editor/Soical Media Editor