As the big title suggests, this poet is also concerned with large philosophical questions. There is an exploration of mortality here, grounded in the poet's life and his own aging. And Hass continues exploring another of his preoccupations the human tendency toward violence. "Bush's War" is a long poem where the current seemingly endless conflict is understood in the context of other conflicts and atrocities. In another poem he begins with something that sounds like a joke "the fact that you get an adolescent/Of the human species to do almost anything" but continues, "Which is why they are tromping down a road in Fallujah/In combat gear. . . /This morning and why a young woman is strapping/Twenty pounds of explosives to her mortal body in Jerusalem. . . ."
But all of that, too, gives an incomplete picture of this capacious collection of poems. There is humor here, gentle and loving. And always he returns to the possibility of our imagination in contact with the world. The last poem says: "This is the moment when bliss is what you glimpse/From the corner of your eye, as you drive past/Running errands."
Robert Hass reads from Time and Materials at Rackham Auditorium on Saturday, December 1.
[Review published December 2007]