web site hit counter What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World

Availability: Ready to download

Universally lauded poet Robert Hass offers a stunning, wide-ranging collection of essays on art, imagination, and the natural world—with accompanying photos throughout. What Light Can Do is a magnificent companion piece to the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Time and Materials, as well as his earlier book of essa Universally lauded poet Robert Hass offers a stunning, wide-ranging collection of essays on art, imagination, and the natural world—with accompanying photos throughout. What Light Can Do is a magnificent companion piece to the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Time and Materials, as well as his earlier book of essays, the NBCC Award-winner Twentieth Century Pleasures. Haas brilliantly discourses on many of his favorite topics—on writers ranging from Jack London to Wallace Stevens to Allen Ginsberg to Cormac McCarthy; on California; and on the art of photography in several memorable pieces—in What Light Can Do, a remarkable literary treasure that might best be described as “luminous.”


Compare

Universally lauded poet Robert Hass offers a stunning, wide-ranging collection of essays on art, imagination, and the natural world—with accompanying photos throughout. What Light Can Do is a magnificent companion piece to the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Time and Materials, as well as his earlier book of essa Universally lauded poet Robert Hass offers a stunning, wide-ranging collection of essays on art, imagination, and the natural world—with accompanying photos throughout. What Light Can Do is a magnificent companion piece to the former U.S. Poet Laureate’s Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning poetry collection, Time and Materials, as well as his earlier book of essays, the NBCC Award-winner Twentieth Century Pleasures. Haas brilliantly discourses on many of his favorite topics—on writers ranging from Jack London to Wallace Stevens to Allen Ginsberg to Cormac McCarthy; on California; and on the art of photography in several memorable pieces—in What Light Can Do, a remarkable literary treasure that might best be described as “luminous.”

30 review for What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World

  1. 4 out of 5

    Laura Leaney

    I wish I could while away more hours inside the mind of Robert Hass. His essays on art, literature, film, philosophy, photography, human beings, and the very earth we stand on, are uplifting, enlightening. As a poet, Hass's critical eye may be more attuned to beauty than the average reader, so following him as he reads, watches, or observes a particular piece of art is like being taught by a master. Best of all, the pieces he chooses to discuss are oftentimes created by artists who are not that I wish I could while away more hours inside the mind of Robert Hass. His essays on art, literature, film, philosophy, photography, human beings, and the very earth we stand on, are uplifting, enlightening. As a poet, Hass's critical eye may be more attuned to beauty than the average reader, so following him as he reads, watches, or observes a particular piece of art is like being taught by a master. Best of all, the pieces he chooses to discuss are oftentimes created by artists who are not that well known - or at least not to me. I had to pause to read the poetry of Ko Un and Ernesto Cardenal so that I could understand the point of Hass's essay on each. The process was one of delightful discovery. As for the artists I knew, I found something to learn at every turn. Edward Taylor, Wallace Stevens, Mary Austin, Chekhov, Kant, Ginsburg, Louise Gluck, Cormac McCarthy, and Robinson Jeffers, are but to name a few. Reading What Light Can Do forced me back to my book shelves (again and again) to savor anew words I'd already read once but needed to read again. All of the material in this book is a celebration of artistry and the human spirit. Hass's sensibility, sensitivity, and wide range of knowledge is apparent on each page.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Jeremy Garber

    Robert Hass proves he can apply his mastery of the evocative image in a few words to the wide breadth of human experience. Hass has been one of the Poet Laureates of the United States, a prolific translator of haiku (the good ones), and a stellar poet in his own right (Field Guide was my first introduction to his work). Now he collects his finely crafted essays on everything from Howl to Kant’s “Essay on Perpetual Peace” (my personal favorite), from photography to the Epistles of John, from Corm Robert Hass proves he can apply his mastery of the evocative image in a few words to the wide breadth of human experience. Hass has been one of the Poet Laureates of the United States, a prolific translator of haiku (the good ones), and a stellar poet in his own right (Field Guide was my first introduction to his work). Now he collects his finely crafted essays on everything from Howl to Kant’s “Essay on Perpetual Peace” (my personal favorite), from photography to the Epistles of John, from Cormac McCarthy to how to teach poetry. (“The truth is, I am much more interested in poems than in the nature of poetry in more or less the same way that someone might be more interested in eating than the theory of cuisine.”) You may not be interested in every essay in the book, but there will be one that will reverberate in your cranium a long time after reading it. Especially recommended for poets, theorists of religion, revolutionaries, artists, and anyone who possesses a soul and a brain simultaneously.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ken

    Robert Hass, professor and lecturer at Cal-Berkeley, is the kind of guy I could sit and listen to forever, if his essays are any indication. He puts the "well" in "-read" (by that I mean he's "deep"). As you would expect, many of these essays treat on poetry and poets-- Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg, Ernesto Cardenal, Robinson Jeffers, Ko Un, Czeslaw Milosz, Walt Whitman, etc. But just as many have to do with prose writers-- Cormac McCarthy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mary Austin, Jack London, and Robert Hass, professor and lecturer at Cal-Berkeley, is the kind of guy I could sit and listen to forever, if his essays are any indication. He puts the "well" in "-read" (by that I mean he's "deep"). As you would expect, many of these essays treat on poetry and poets-- Wallace Stevens, Allen Ginsberg, Ernesto Cardenal, Robinson Jeffers, Ko Un, Czeslaw Milosz, Walt Whitman, etc. But just as many have to do with prose writers-- Cormac McCarthy, Maxine Hong Kingston, Mary Austin, Jack London, and Anton Chekhov, to name a few. Hass's is an erudite yet avuncular style. His literary acumen is highbrow, but he speaks the language of middlebrows. Thus, the likes of me are able to follow along. It's a "dip" type of book. It rides shotgun as you are reading a novel, say, and when you're in the mood to learn more about, for instance, Chinese or Korean poetry, or maybe California writers, or maybe literature and war or literature and rivers or maybe literature and spirituality/religion, you open What Light Can Do, dip in, and feel elucidated for your troubles. Move over, MOOCS. Robert Hass's essays see your on-line courses and raise them to the warm comforts of a 476-page book that's like a companion you can trust and take your time listening to.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen Jones

    I've always loved the poetry of Robert Hass, (I have his Apple Trees at Olema) though I had never read any of his essays. Now, this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite books - on Kindle - and I'm buying a hard copy to read and re-read and underline and scribble in the margins - it's that kind of book. What he says, and the way he says it, makes it a must-read. In a week when Sharon Olds won the TS Eliot prize for poetry I re-read an essay sub-titled 'Poor Monkeys and the White Business in the I've always loved the poetry of Robert Hass, (I have his Apple Trees at Olema) though I had never read any of his essays. Now, this is rapidly becoming one of my favourite books - on Kindle - and I'm buying a hard copy to read and re-read and underline and scribble in the margins - it's that kind of book. What he says, and the way he says it, makes it a must-read. In a week when Sharon Olds won the TS Eliot prize for poetry I re-read an essay sub-titled 'Poor Monkeys and the White Business in the Trees'. It's a thoughtful discussion of autobiographical poetry about families. Hass points out that it was a new subject when Robert Lowell published 'Life Studies' in 1959. 'It is a fact,' Hass observes, 'that [you] can learn nothing about the aunts or the grandmothers of John Donne, Thomas Traherne, Anne Finch, Alexander Pope... John Keats, Emily Dickinson or Robert Browning' from their poetry. He also feels that it may be a particularly American phenomenon. 'American poetry is full of aunts and grandmothers, but French poetry isn't, or Serbian poetry or Arabic or Brazilian or for that matter, English poetry'. Robert Hass takes us through some theories of Why this might be, which I found fascinating. One of the essays is a deliberation on war - particularly the Iraq war. 'How did this happen?' Hass asks. 'And why are ordinary Americans not being driven crazy by it?' The answer he supplies is 'fear, anger and ignorance'. How could ordinary people be expected to know that 'bombing Saddam Hussein because of a terrorist act perpetrated by Saudi Arabian Wahhabi Muslim terrorists would seem to the people in the Middle East an act of pure aggression against all Islamic cultures by a power that could not distinguish among them.' But government and the educated media should have been able to and Hass castigates them for their failure to do so, accusing them of 'morally culpable ignorance'. He states that 'The moral and intellectual failure of American journalists and of political and policy intellectuals was breathtaking'. There are several 'major' essays in the book; one of them on 'Chekhov's Anger', which told me quite a lot I didn't know about the author's life as well as providing an illuminating analysis of the work. Chekhov apparently began his career writing for comic newspapers and magazines in 19th century Russia - the same kind of 'penny dreadfuls' that Herbert Allingham wrote for in Britain. Chekhov's grandfather had been a serf who had bought his freedom and become a bailiff - the classic case of poacher turning gamekeeper. Chekhov's father was a small shop-keeper who went bankrupt when he was only 16 and the family moved to Moscow. Chekhov began publishing stories, sketches and jokes to pay his way through a medical degree. Soon he was keeping the whole family. Robert Hass is very good on these early mass-market stories which were the 'equivalent of newspaper cartoons'. it taught Chekhov a lot about writing - particularly economy. This is Chekhov writing to Gorky - 'cross out as many adjectives and adverbs as you like. You have so many modifiers that the reader has trouble understanding and gets worn out'. Hass points out that these early commercial stories have the same structure as the later stories that Chekhov is famous for. 'They depend on a surprise ending, usually, though not always on dramatic reversal, and the surprise in in one way or another wounding . . . The gasp that the story evokes, the little cry of surprise and discovery, comes out not just because the ending surprises, but because it fits'. The stories are also witty and it is 'the terrible presence of wit' that takes the stories from pathos into tragedy. Chekhov knew what he was doing in his fiction and his drama. 'I finish every act as I do my stories; I keep the action calm and quiet till the end, then I punch the audience in the face.' Chekhov's anger came from the violent treatment meted out by his father, which he couldn't forgive, as well as the social injustice he witnessed in a Russia building up to civil war. Anger, Hass observes, can be 'the wellspring of art'. It reminds me of Katherine Mansfield, who said that one of the 'kick offs' for her was a 'cry against corruption'. Anger motivated many of her stories, and Chekhov was one of her big influences. She too, wrote only short stories, never a novel. There are other wonderful essays in this book - 'Howl at Fifty' takes another look at Ginsberg 50 years on and compares the style of it to passages from the Waste Land (I'd never made the connection with Eliot before, but it's so obvious I now feel stupid!). He describes Howl as 'a kind of exploded, hallucinatory autobiography'. He talks about the genesis of Moloch and observes that 'Moloch has still got hold of a good chunk of the American soul'. I also loved 'Imagining the Earth' - his essays on eco-poetry and literature, and one on 'Teaching Poetry' which I can't even begin to precis. It touches on the oral nature of poetry on the page - poetry is 'a kind of speech that's meant to be said by others'. In other essays he explores the connections between poetry and the natural world. He is pessimistic about our generation's custodianship of the planet. 'What a depleted world our students are inheriting'. Will they be able to save it? 'The task may be beyond us.' But 'We have to act as if we can accomplish it, as if we can preserve that richness and diversity. We have to act as if the soul gets to choose.' I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves literature - it's a great companion volume to Robert Hass's collected poems too. Thoughtful, profound, outspoken - the writings of a compassionate individual who is also a great poet.

  5. 5 out of 5

    David Sumner

    I can't recommend this highly enough. As much as what Hass writes about how he writes is fascinating. His essay on Howl is written in the voice of a beat poet. His insights & observations are acute, refreshing. Read this book! Re-read it! Write in the margins, underline. Carry it around, read it in a cafe and keep it on the table as you begin writing a poem while watching the afternoon light turn to an amber glow. I can't recommend this highly enough. As much as what Hass writes about how he writes is fascinating. His essay on Howl is written in the voice of a beat poet. His insights & observations are acute, refreshing. Read this book! Re-read it! Write in the margins, underline. Carry it around, read it in a cafe and keep it on the table as you begin writing a poem while watching the afternoon light turn to an amber glow.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Angelo

    An excellent book of essays covering everything from poetry, to photography, to the Cormac McCarthy Borders trilogy, to the protest of the cutting down of oak trees at the University of Berkeley campus. Throughout, the voice of Robert Hass, measured, self-reflective, intelligent. If this book had 20 more articles I could have kept on without a thought.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Wendy Liu

    wow

  8. 4 out of 5

    Ted Morgan

    Remarkably astute essayist who varies is essays to suit their subjects. This collection draws me to want to read more of his work.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    There are so many undercurrents and connections beyond what is just on the surface in these essays, which make for rigorous and delightful reading.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Brilliant. Poet, philosopher, acute observer of the unseen, Hass is the type of writer I long to find in my reading. What a gift. These essays are brilliant. Literature, photography, poetry, the natural world come alive in a totally refreshing and nuanced articulation. My reading list doubled as I read about authors and playwrights that I now considered in a wholly different light. What the light can do, indeed!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Steve

    Very nice collection of essays that is fairly diverse, there's not a lot holding them together except that Hass wrote them. Some of them seem like they belong under the title, others don't. But books of essays are great because you can just read around in them and find the things you want. I would suggest reading this if you would like some insightful essays on literature, writers, and painting. Ther are some very nice essays in there on these topics. Very nice collection of essays that is fairly diverse, there's not a lot holding them together except that Hass wrote them. Some of them seem like they belong under the title, others don't. But books of essays are great because you can just read around in them and find the things you want. I would suggest reading this if you would like some insightful essays on literature, writers, and painting. Ther are some very nice essays in there on these topics.

  12. 4 out of 5

    нєνєℓ ¢ανα

    Excellent...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Alia S

    "They were trying to invent in language, trying to say what life was like for them, to bear witness to it, to sing, to find fresh ways of embodying the experiences of thinking and feeling and living among others, to make new and surprising kinds of verbal artifacts." ----------------------------- I was having a really good time with this when the library reclaimed it. Will come back to it at some point. Side-note: This book is a writer I don't know writing about other writers I don't know; it ought "They were trying to invent in language, trying to say what life was like for them, to bear witness to it, to sing, to find fresh ways of embodying the experiences of thinking and feeling and living among others, to make new and surprising kinds of verbal artifacts." ----------------------------- I was having a really good time with this when the library reclaimed it. Will come back to it at some point. Side-note: This book is a writer I don't know writing about other writers I don't know; it ought to be impossible. But a) Hass is very good, obviously, and b) How to Talk About Books You Haven't Read has basically given me superpowers. <3

  14. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I finished reading what light can do: Essays on Art, Imagination, And the Natural World by Robert Hass on Sunday afternoon at the cottage in Three Rivers, Michigan (after a walk in a snowstorm around the lake). This is a wonderful collection of essays on a wide variety of interesting topics. Because Hass is a poet, there is a lot of stuff on poetry here. But the work is mainly about his encounter with the world, both inner and outer. The writing is beautiful and reveals a hidden world. I had a v I finished reading what light can do: Essays on Art, Imagination, And the Natural World by Robert Hass on Sunday afternoon at the cottage in Three Rivers, Michigan (after a walk in a snowstorm around the lake). This is a wonderful collection of essays on a wide variety of interesting topics. Because Hass is a poet, there is a lot of stuff on poetry here. But the work is mainly about his encounter with the world, both inner and outer. The writing is beautiful and reveals a hidden world. I had a visit with the author in November and I wish I had read this whole book by that time. It would have added to a delightful conversation. It was a long read, but well worth it.

  15. 5 out of 5

    World Literature Today

    "The nouns in the subtitle of Robert Hass’s new book are abstract enough to cover the wide variety of its topics, but they barely suggest the range of allusion, the depth of some of the readings, the consistent eloquence and easy confidence of the style, and the author’s ability to blend personal and critical viewpoints." - Robert Murray Davis, University of Oklahoma This book was reviewed in the May 2013 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our site: http://bit.ly/18 "The nouns in the subtitle of Robert Hass’s new book are abstract enough to cover the wide variety of its topics, but they barely suggest the range of allusion, the depth of some of the readings, the consistent eloquence and easy confidence of the style, and the author’s ability to blend personal and critical viewpoints." - Robert Murray Davis, University of Oklahoma This book was reviewed in the May 2013 issue of World Literature Today. Read the full review by visiting our site: http://bit.ly/18JxneR

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jenny

    I really enjoyed this book for a while - but it's taken me a long time to get through it, and I'll admit I did skip a few essays in the last half of it. Not really my thing, but good for me and he's an excellent writer about things that I know only a little about....which makes it a tough slog at times, even though I want to want to read it...you know? Ah well....it made me feel good when a complete stranger on the bus saw it and asked me about it and she wrote down the title so that she could f I really enjoyed this book for a while - but it's taken me a long time to get through it, and I'll admit I did skip a few essays in the last half of it. Not really my thing, but good for me and he's an excellent writer about things that I know only a little about....which makes it a tough slog at times, even though I want to want to read it...you know? Ah well....it made me feel good when a complete stranger on the bus saw it and asked me about it and she wrote down the title so that she could find a copy for herself.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Katlyn

    I've never read any of Hass's prose before, but I picked up this book at the library because of his brilliant poetry. The pros is equally insightful, lyrical and worldly. It was difficult for me to finish, which is not surprising given that the writings in this collection were not originally intended for reading all at once, but there's a topical cohesiveness in the order of the pieces that I appreciated. I've never read any of Hass's prose before, but I picked up this book at the library because of his brilliant poetry. The pros is equally insightful, lyrical and worldly. It was difficult for me to finish, which is not surprising given that the writings in this collection were not originally intended for reading all at once, but there's a topical cohesiveness in the order of the pieces that I appreciated.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    This was obviously meant for someone passionate about poetry and artistic/literary criticism, neither of which is me. The author is obviously brilliant, but since I don't share his passion for poetic criticism, it kind of left me in the dust. The three stars are not for the quality of the book, but more a reflection of whether the book was a good fit for me, which it really wasn't. Like wearing a size 7 shoe, but putting on a 10. :) This was obviously meant for someone passionate about poetry and artistic/literary criticism, neither of which is me. The author is obviously brilliant, but since I don't share his passion for poetic criticism, it kind of left me in the dust. The three stars are not for the quality of the book, but more a reflection of whether the book was a good fit for me, which it really wasn't. Like wearing a size 7 shoe, but putting on a 10. :)

  19. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    I slowly induldged in this great book of essays and ideas. I am a huge fan of this poets work. So a tad leary of his essays at first. But as I finished it the other night I realized I could read whatever this man wrote. A bit of an academic, but one doesn't choke on an overbearing vocabulary. This book was interesting through and through. Even on some of the criticism of authors I'm not well fond of, great job. I slowly induldged in this great book of essays and ideas. I am a huge fan of this poets work. So a tad leary of his essays at first. But as I finished it the other night I realized I could read whatever this man wrote. A bit of an academic, but one doesn't choke on an overbearing vocabulary. This book was interesting through and through. Even on some of the criticism of authors I'm not well fond of, great job.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Dr. Carl Ludwig Dorsch

    A collection of talks and essays of uneven finish, some of whose provenance is frustratingly unidentified. At his best Hass writes with a sharp clarity, a humble profundity and a broad curiosity – often in the same sentence. As well as being usefully introduced to unfamiliar vistas, I found myself surprisingly often (and often surprisingly) moved to reflection.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Greta

    Robert Hass is a very engaging and knowledgeable critic as well as a poet. While exact in the points he makes, he has a rather conversational style and sense of organization to lead you from one to the next. Essays on Chekhov, Howl" at 50, Jack London, Milosz (of course), war and peace in poetry, American prisons, nature, and photography. Robert Hass is a very engaging and knowledgeable critic as well as a poet. While exact in the points he makes, he has a rather conversational style and sense of organization to lead you from one to the next. Essays on Chekhov, Howl" at 50, Jack London, Milosz (of course), war and peace in poetry, American prisons, nature, and photography.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Whitney

    I picked this up at City Lights in 2013 based on my loved for the imagery in Robert Hass's poem "Privilege of Being." I've read only a handful of essays so far, but I'm keeping it nearby now. Highlights are essays on teaching poetry and on Chekhov's anger. It's hard to get too far without being compelled to go off and read some of the actual stuff Hass is writing about. I picked this up at City Lights in 2013 based on my loved for the imagery in Robert Hass's poem "Privilege of Being." I've read only a handful of essays so far, but I'm keeping it nearby now. Highlights are essays on teaching poetry and on Chekhov's anger. It's hard to get too far without being compelled to go off and read some of the actual stuff Hass is writing about.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Marion

    I've enjoyed Mr. Hass's poetry for years and was eager to read this book. It did not disappoint. It is luminous, to say the least, and a book that I dip into to over and over again. If you're a Robert Hass fan, then this is a MUST READ. I've enjoyed Mr. Hass's poetry for years and was eager to read this book. It did not disappoint. It is luminous, to say the least, and a book that I dip into to over and over again. If you're a Robert Hass fan, then this is a MUST READ.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Sigrun Hodne

    Some wonderful pieces, some I found a little less so.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Scott Simpson

    Boring.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Naomi

    A fine volume of literary essays, much to engage and mull over, and much to disagree with.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Terri

    Starting with the three chapters on photographers.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a very solid collection. I really enjoyed most of the essays included, and the few on topics that didn't interest me were still well-written and general enough that they were fun to read. This was a very solid collection. I really enjoyed most of the essays included, and the few on topics that didn't interest me were still well-written and general enough that they were fun to read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    That only took three years to finish (which, I think, is pretty reasonable for a 500-page book of essays). Time to start the reread!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michelle

    What a brilliant, inspiring mind Hass wields... But I can only dip in and out of this tome one essay at a time, and alas, library loans only last so long. Will return for more literary analysis, introspection, and incredible writing.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.