Field Guide

Robert Hass

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April 20, 1998
100 pages
ISBN: 9780300076332
Paper

The Winning volume in the 1972 Yale Series of Younger Poets competition is a collection of richly anecdotal, lyric poems. Robert Hass writes about the California coast, about birds, fish, books, friends, presents sensations, and the impingements of the past upon the present. Running through the book is a core of love poems, mainly domestic, which muse on the natural order that the affections try to establish even within the wilderness of history and political violence. 
Stanley Kunitz, the judge of the competition, calls this year’s selection “a big, strong-hearted, earthy book, in the America epic tradition of Whitman and Neruda. Hass is a wonderfully informed young man, a waking history, with abounding affection for the natural universe, including some humans, and with an imagination that spans the whole continent, from Buffalo to the Pacific.”

"The Yale Series of Younger Poets remains the most prestigious [of poetry contests]."—Library Journal

"Usually the first book of a poet is just a groping for his identity and means of expression. Robert Hass should consider himself lucky, for his first volume set the tome and basic subjects of his consequent oeuvre. In Field Guide he is already what he was to become: a major poet endowed with an infallible ear for a line of verse, a master of sensuous and realistic images of California and our mores in this century."—Czeslaw Milosz

"Twenty-five years ago Hass was writing the poems in his first book, Field Guide (1973), which displayed the mildness of his wit and the inclusiveness of his curiosity along with the firmness of his indignation—a book that embodied the sort of sauna gladness that comes after cleansing sweat. It was as impressive a first collection as any of its decade."—Peter Davison, Atlantic Monthly

"If he succeeds as abundantly as he promises in his first bookful of poems, he will soon be a 'name,' himself, in the growing company of American naturists."—The Hudson Review (on earlier edition)

"A remarkable first book of poems, which includes several sustained pieces as well as shorter lyrics. Hass is closely attentive to the natural world and to his private situations. . . . He knows the names—of flowers and plants, sea creatures and animals—and these names delight because his ear is finely tuned. 'I have believed so long/ in the magic of names and poems,' he says in 'Letter.' Field Guide makes us believe in that magic."—Library Journal (on earlier edition)

"A remarkable volume of poems. . . . Field Guide is a means of naming things, of establishing an identity through one's surroundings, of translating the natural world into one's private history. This is a lot to accomplish, yet Robert Hass manages it with clarity and compassion. He is a fine poet, and his book is one of the very best to appear in a long time."—Southwest Review (on earlier edition)

"Some poems present themselves as cliffs that need to be climbed. Others are so defensive that when you approach their enclosure you half expect to be met by a snarling dog at the gate. Still others want to smother you with their sticky charms. Reading a poem by Robert Hass is like stepping into the ocean when the temperature of the water is not much different from that of the air. You scarcely know, until you feel the undertow tug at you, that you have entered another element. Suddenly the deep is there, teeming with life. . . . Field Guide is an event as much as it is literature."—Stanley Kunitz (on earlier edition)

"Robert Hass's Field Guide is an impressive first collection, whether one is looking for a poet who develops a new track or one who proves his skill along older routes. Without many contradictions in tone or method, Hass appears to do both. Reminiscent in his sharply detailed lists of the purist Imagists, Hass can just as deftly move from image to the statement of the experience which crystallizes the happening for the reader. . . . Field Guide as a collection also has integrity. The poems in the three selections fit well together; they are arranged, as the title suggests, to provide a map, to both natural phenomena and human experience."—The Ontario Review (on earlier edition)

Included in the Notable Books List for 1973 from the American Library Association
Yale Series of Younger Poets
Hermit with Landscape

Daniel Hall; Foreword by James Merrill

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Out of the Woods

Thomas Bolt; Foreword by James Merrill

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Picture Bride

Cathy Song; Foreword by Richard Hugo

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Beginning with O

Olga Broumas; Foreword by Stanley Kunitz

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Natural Histories

Leslie Ullman; Foreword by Richard Hugo

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