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PN Review 276
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This review is taken from PN Review 201, Volume 38 Number 1, September - October 2011.

JOYFULLY UP TO THE TASK ROBERT HASS, The Apple Trees at Olema: New & Selected Poems (Bloodaxe) £15

He would leave symbols to the proud busy with their cause.
By looking he wanted to draw the name from the very thing.
Czesław Miłosz, translated with Robert Hass

A 'New & Selected' from a poet of Robert Hass's stature - Pulitzer winner, former poet laureate of the United States, acclaimed translator and friend of Nobel laureate Czesław Miłosz - might be seen as an opportunity to merely restate the career. But The Apple Trees at Olema is not interested in that: besides lacking any of his translations of Miłosz (numbering eight books of poetry, as opposed to the five of Hass's own), it makes the decision to discard chronology by opening with Hass's new work. One idea, then, might be to read these new poems as a move to reframe Hass's back-catalogue, to answer questions left hanging by his earlier collections. And this idea is a good one: the new poems are not only a triumph, but the solution to a problem which has plagued Hass's writing throughout his career. What we find, then, in great new work such as 'July Notebook: The Birds', which opens this book, is an utterly convincing and finely balanced tension between the urge to a poetry which includes and comments on everything within reach, and a poetry which is concerned with cataloguing the intricacies and vagaries of human experience:

No, not a saw. It's a boy on a scooter and the sun
on his ...

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