May 27, 2010

Robert Hass, "Faint Music" and the Notion of Listening



< Rebekah listens to Becky's story.


I’m not ready to quit on yesterday’s topic, which might be about conversational styles, a subject about which there must be Ph.D. dissertations.

Remember the Ancient Mariner and the Wedding Guest who couldn't get away because the Mariner’s story was so compelling?

Somehow I think Robert Hass’s poem “Faint Music” is about story telling and conversational style, among other things. Where’s the heart of the story? What is it in the story that’s important to believe? How does the storyteller convince us? One answer is, “Not by noise. Not by histrionics.”


“Faint Music” is a bit close to the talk-y poetry I’m always complaining about, but I find that it passes my almighty test of offering something in almost every line that feels essential, not just to the poem and its story, but to me and other humans trying to understand more of what’s out there, maybe the how more than the why.

Hass’s new book, The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems, was reviewed by David Orr in the May 16 New York Times Book Review. I haven’t been back to Hass in over a decade, but I take it as a sign that I stumbled across the review and then “Faint Music” (at Poetry Foundation) within a couple of days of each other.

“Faint Music” is a touch long, but it’s very accessible, tells a compelling story, and packs a wallop at the end. I hope you’ll stick with it.

Faint Music by Robert Hass : The Poetry Foundation [poem] : Find Poems and Poets. Discover Poetry.


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