. . . [The poems in Human Wishes] dramatize Hass’s struggle to balance the lyric impulse toward pure image with the need for philosophical reflection . . . he finds forms that allow a subtle working out of these opposing pressures. Here meditation takes precedence over lyricism as Hass adopts the longline, the sentence, as his primary mode. This extended poetic line allows him a greater range of expressive freedom and philosophical searching than he was able to achieve in his earlier poetry . . .
. . . the second part [of Human Wishes] is a splendid collection of short prose pieces. The formalistic turn Hass takes in this collection has thematic implications. Hass’s capacious lines, his abundant catalogues of the everyday, and his disjunctive logic enact the flourishing yet tenuous nature of language, illumination, and eartly pleasure. In these poems Hass insits on being accountable to larger social concerns, yet clings to an awareness of the given world. Any lyric moment, then, must be balanced in relation to historical imperative . . .
The most striking quality of Human Wishes is the sense of its abundance . . . Beauty, pain . . .
joy, and despair all have their moment and then pass. This understanding is at the heart of Human Wishes: the title alludes to Samuel Johnson’s verse satire The Vanity of Human Wishes (1749). The poems do not refuse human desires but rather affirm that the current between desire and fulfillment makes possible beauty and erotic pleasure . . .