Why do I fear I will never match his style? In some ways because his style, a sort of free write flow of thoughts are often based on knowledge about something that he uniquely has studied. Two poems are like this, Jatun Sacha and Regalia for a Black Hat Dancer. I especially like it when his details are more fantasy or emotion driven than exact such as in Seventh Night’s Hi dreamer, Hi mortal splendor. And from Jatun Sacha, “It was a gold thing, her singing.”
I am not free writing at the moment. I am collecting evidence around situations I have experienced. It is very time consuming and frenetic. There is nothing frenetic or insistent in Robert Hass’ writing, except perhaps a persistence of thinking around his mother’s alcoholism.
Since I am writing on alcoholism and drug abuse, I have to say that Robert Hass is somewhat like me in writing situation, here is an observed moment—an example is after being told that she never loved him, and thinking “It is May. Also pines, lawn, the bay, a blossoming apricot” in Interrupted Meditation. He writes about his mother or his divorce in a detached way. With his mother, his detachment reveals that he had personal difficulties with knowing what to do about his mother and how to relate to her. Families that deal with addicted persons often have a stunned reaction when witnessing them—why would they do this when it is so uncomfortable and awful?
Part of his detached voice comes from a clear look at a situation without having any preconceived ideas about what he should or should not say, such as the variations on English and on his mother’s nipples. He shows a willingness to go where his mind leads, instead of directing it down a path. Some of how he phrases words seem to reveal meditation or the idea of the ideal separate from the instance, “before there was a bell there was a bell.” It reminded me of the Jain temple with their ribbons of bells that we saw in India (see photograph below).
I could relate to Forty Something, I’ve been there.
This volume, I think, is part prose and part poetry – the prose shows up in notes about the poem twice, and in his long lines and the sense of a story being told. He has collected poems about his divorce and his mother and I think perhaps all of the poems have an element of betrayal that he has a hard time understanding because it conflicts with his emotions about the events. From this point of view, these poems are tightly woven together. His very detailed use of descriptive elements, the magnolia warbler and other birds, for instance, also tie it together. I like that he started with Happiness, and ended with “I want this poem to end singing” in Interrupted Meditation because it frames the poems in the context of three years that he thought about his divorce in an appealing fashion—it invited readers into the experience and then let them know that he would be okay in the end.
So, I suppose I should free write more again. I haven’t done so for a long time. But I feel like I am on a deadline to complete the memoir and have it done so it knots me up into some plan instead of the freedom to write as if my thoughts flowed. With novels, I had an easier time because I had the scene to write for a day, then a freedom to go do what I wished.