For Connie

Robert Hass
Photograph courtesy of the University of Iowa Center for Advancement

Maybe it has been a matter of rhythm.
The river flows past. Bare trees in winter,
Green shade in the humid summers. 
The brief astonishment of spring, incandescence
Of fall. Drinks at the Deadwood, readings
At the Mill. Readings at Prairie Lights
Or in a university auditorium. Parties
After the readings. Dinners before the readings.
Seminars in a classroom at EPB and then
At Dey House. About fifty new writers a year,
Hungry, full of dreams, readers, insomniacs,
Faculty writers. Visiting faculty to be housed.
Directors: Jack, Frank, Sam. Themselves
Like the others, writing and trying to write.
A hundred young writers a year to find money
And jobs for, fellowships, teaching gigs.
Admissions to be read. Visiting editors.
The river flows past. There is always one crisis,
Or more. Somebody manic, exultant,
Somebody hurting. Bare trees in winter,
Green shade in the humid summers.
Farm country surrounds the town, the town
Surrounds the university. The university
Surrounds the workshop, which is legendary.
Two thousand writers in forty years, and
Somehow it works. Poems to the workshops
On Monday, and stories, chapters of novels
To be worked over. Young writers on long walks,
Arguments in cafes, fevered middles of the night.
Critiques, revisions. The drama is in all those heads
Dreaming into and out of the buildings,
Brooding on this chapter, this arc of the music
Of the language. And often otherwise oblivious.
And somehow it all works, has for forty years,
Somehow someone’s drama had to be the building, 
As if a kind of grace, or magic, ineluctable
But absolutely present. Understood the rhythm,
Was orchestrating it, navigating it. How amazing! 

Robert Hass’s most recent book is Summer Snow: New Poems from Ecco/HarperCollins. He is a professor emeritus of poetry and poetics at the University of California at Berkeley.