Poetry. California Interest. Winner of the 2020 Red Mountain Discovery Award. In his debut poetry collection, BORROWED LIGHT, Ken Haas vividly yet unassumingly traces the evolution of a first-generation American's heart. His remarkable gift for storytelling navigates with intimacy, humor, surprise and moral compass. He takes us from the schoolyard to the old country, the Village to the Sierras, Kafka's bank line to the ballpark, eclipses to cab rides, kayaking to chemo. These are poems that want to be read, read aloud and read again. Here is the distinctive voice of the Bronx and the West, war and migration, landscape and family, celebrating as it holds a bright mirror up to dark causes, calls itself and the world to account.
"BORROWED LIGHT, Ken Haas' first collection of poems, is complex, vibrant, capacious and wildly imaginative. With affection and wonderful clarity, Haas describes a childhood of 'taking infield practice and shagging flies,' Atlantic City's 'sunburn and saltwater taffy,' a trip into Manhattan to see the legendary John Coltrane, who 'emptied his arms in a wave that even now speaks to the kind of man I could become.' But it would be a mistake to call this book nostalgic. Haas is keenly aware of the darker forces of history. The same anti-Semitism that forced his grandparents to flee Nazi Germany is alive and well today—'we just forgot that shirt-wise brown is brown, words do burn, and we can see the rest from here.' Yet what emerges overall is a celebration of the immigrant. Peopled with men and women from El Salvador, China, Mexico, Philippines. BORROWED LIGHT is an invitation to empathy, an embrace of the stranger, a sanctuary."—Ellen Bass
"From a Bronx childhood and adolescence these poems chart a wide-ranging narrative, lit by well-drawn images, through the second part of the 20th Century into our present fractured moment: family portraits and songs of romance, ironic meditations on age and ethnicity, homilies on loneliness and companionship. This is a compassionate voice, full of an appreciation for life and laced with an undercurrent of humor, unmistakably American."—Joseph Millar
Diane Donovan @ Midwest Book Review
Ken Haas has been published in more than fifty journals, including Clare, Cottonwood, Existere, Forge, The Helix, Natural Bridge, Poet Lore, Quiddity, and Spoon River. He has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, has won the Betsy Colquitt Poetry Award, and serves on the Board of Directors of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. He received a BA in History and Literature from Harvard College, and an MA in English from the University of Sussex, U.K., where he wrote his dissertation on Wallace Stevens. The son of European immigrants, Ken grew up in New York City and now lives in San Francisco where he works in healthcare and sponsors a weekly poetry writing program at UCSF Children's Hospital.Author City: SAN FRANCISCO, CA USA