Robert Hass is young, well-educated and well-read, fond of hiking and going to the movies; a contemporary type. But his unpretentious and atypical task is praise of life, the ""beast so large, terrifying and unpredictable."" One feels caught up in friendly conversation--whether the subject is a woman bathing in ""a scent of lemon and a drift of song,/ a heartfelt imitation of Bessie Smith,"" or an all-night doughnut shop, or the ""notion that,/ because there is in this world no one thing/ to which the bramble of blackberry corresponds,/ a word is elegy to what it signifies."" As in his first book, Field Guide (the Yale Younger Poets book of 1973), Hass demonstrates a talent for keen natural description, relishing especially the names for things: ""Smell of wild fennel,/ high loft of sweet fruit high in the branches. . .""; ""I used to name the flowers--/ beard tongue, stone crop,/ pearly everlasting""; ""the little orange-silver fish/ called pumpkinseed. . . ."" Often, long poems tend to stagnate, but Hass' do not. ""Against Boticelli,"" a meditation on fleshly pleasures, moves through thought and incident at breakneck speed: ""In our shamefast and steady attention/ to the ceremony, its preparation, the formal hovering/ of pleasure which falls like rain we pray not to get/ and are glad for and drown in."" His exciting and beautifully written poetry suggests a vigorous hybrid of Ashbery and Gary Snyder-and Hass does not suffer by comparison.