Despite unquestionable similarities in theme and manner, Human Wishes is at once a more ingratiating and disquieting book than its predecessors. Paradoxically, it appears as if Hass’s poems now rest easier in their skins even as they feel sharper chills in their bones.
. . . Human Wishes confirms that there’s more to Hass than courtly efforts to keep body and mind on speaking terms. The give and take of passionate dialectics lends this book its very grain, abstraction answering to detail, pleasure to pain, clarity to mystery, epiphany to commonplace. Then there’s Hass’s noted penchant for fleshing out contraries by way of the flesh itself, his candid tracking shot into bedrooms . . .
In Human Wishes, he’s given himself over almost entirely to the long line and block stanza, steadfastly adhering to unadorned, prose-like rhythms throughout the sinuous paragraphs and strict prose poems of the first half of the book . . . Nothing if not resourceful, he’s cultivated a more open, intimately epistolary verse that makes room for everything from strenuous metaphysics, beguiling storytelling, and wry recollections to haiku-like snapshots, flinty epigrams, and tremulous lyricism. Yet, on another level, the self-effacing withdrawal from poetic shapeliness, the occasionally stolid essayistic manner, betrays a sensibility increasingly consumed with diminishment and flux.