Robert Hass

Robert Hass

Robert Hass’s poetry, written with rigorous intellect and deep care, concerns itself with what it means to be alive in the world. Hass’s first poetry collection, Field Guide, was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series in 1973. Indeed, Hass’s poetry often serves as a guide to the natural world, while also leading the reader through complex realms of human interaction.

In poems at once calm and questioning, he burrows through the outer layers of meaning assigned to objects and nature and, as the playwright Brighde Mullins says, “sharpens our senses on the whetstone of his noticing.” Hass works from a spiritual poetics in which it is not enough to say that a bird sings, but one must identify the song and ask what enables us to hear it. Here, cityscapes and coastlines coexist, the poem acting as frame for aspects of the natural world rapidly losing their context to the thrust of technology. The BostonGlobe writes that Hass possesses all the qualities of a major poet: “intelligence, depth, musicality, sweep, intimacy, humor, observation, learning, and above all, compassion.” Examining the artist’s motivations and casting aside doubt, Hass himself writes, “I’m a little ashamed that I want to end this poem / singing, but I want to end this poem singing…”

Hass has published four books of poetry, and has translated the poems of Czeslaw Milosz, as well as Japanese haiku. He also edited Poet's Choice: Poems for Everyday Life and the selected poems of Tomas Tranströmer. Hass has received many distinguished honors, including a MacArthur Fellowship and two National Book Critics Circle Awards. While serving as United States Poet Laureate from 1995-97, he traveled the country to speak on poetry, literacy and the environment, bringing a new range of responsibilities and opportunities to the office. His deep committment to environmental issues led him to found River of Words (ROW), an organization that promotes environmental and arts education in affiliation with the Library of Congress Center for the Book. A native San Franciscan, Hass lives in California and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.


Poems by Robert Hass

Privilege of Being

Ezra Pound's Proposition

First Things at the Last Minute


The Problem of Describing Trees
(Available as a broadside.)













Poetry Center Reading:

Fall 2004