We want to continue and explore the work of Hass. Specifically we want to consider Hass’s ability to explore rich meaning in everyday observation. Hass noted that he has become known as a California poet, but for Hass this has more to do with using place as canvas:
I liked writing about my place. It gave me a subject; also I have always been very interested in natural history, and I had the idea, in my early work, that the sheer variety of the gene pool needed to be invoked and celebrated, if it was going to be saved, etc. But I found that I wasn’t really interested in or good at advocacy types of writing. It just wasn’t where my subject matter was. So the thought I had went something like this: if I live in my place and live my life and write about my subjects, whatever they turned out to be–love, grief, the nature of things, the nature of our nature, the riddles of existence–and drew on the materials of my place as the idiom of that expression, then that would be the kind of environmental writing I’d do. And that’s roughly how the northern California landscape functions in my work, I think.
Take the poem Happiness for example
Because yesterday morning from the steamy window
we saw a pair of red foxes across the creek
eating the last windfall apples in the rain—
they looked up at us with their green eyes
long enough to symbolize the wakefulness of living things
and then went back to eating—
and because this morning
when she went into the gazebo with her black pen and yellow pad
to coax an inquisitive soul
from what she thinks of as the reluctance of matter,
I drove into town to drink tea in the cafe
and write notes in a journal—mist rose from the bay
like the luminous and indefinite aspect of intention,
and a small flock of tundra swans
for the second winter in a row was feeding on new grass
in the soaked fields; they symbolize mystery, I suppose,
they are also called whistling swans, are very white,
and their eyes are black—
and because the tea steamed in front of me,
and the notebook, turned to a new page,
was blank except for a faint blue idea of order,
I wrote: happiness! it is December, very cold,
we woke early this morning,
and lay in bed kissing,
our eyes squinched up like bats.
The poem describes everyday events and has so many layers of meaning. This is our goal for #walkmyworld. We want our community to consider how we perceive our world. We want to consider how others my perceive our place. So please keep capturing and sharing your walks. They will be central to the next three learning events.
Until then let’s focus on the type of environmental writing Hass does.
For this learning event we want you to try and consider the human conditions that Hass explores in his description of the places he lives.
What is the “subject” of Happiness and how is this expressed as an idiom of expression of place?
When Hass describes his life and places in Happiness what connotative and figurative meaning can you find?
Can you detail a deeper meaning about the human condition through a description of a walk (image) you shared through #walkmyworld?
As always with #walkmyworld your level of involvement and medium is up to you. We just ask you consider one of all of the prompts above. You could:
Get involved in annotating the poem on Poetry Genius. Consider the prompts above as you code the text with purpose.
Analyze the poem in a blog post.
Create a multimodal retelling of the poem. You can find audio here.
Write a poem. Select one of your walks. Try to capture some larger element of human existence through your description of the walk (Hint that I learned in my last poem: Adverbs are the enemy of imagery).
Develop your own idea to reflect on Hass’s poem Happiness. You control your learning as you #walkmyworld.
image credit: Walk on by Ciril https://www.deviantart.com/art/Walk-on-13800694