Robert Hass Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

From 1977 to 1983, Robert Hass wrote critical essays and reviews commissioned by various journals and magazines. He notes that he was grateful for the opportunity to write these essays “because I learned about my art by writing about it.” During this period, Hass also developed an interest in translating, and in the early 1980’s joined Robert Pinsky, Renata Gorczynski, and the Polish poet Czesaw Miosz in preparing a translation of Miosz’s The Separate Notebooks (1984). Hass maintained this working relationship with Miosz, and together they translated five more books of Polish poems. His translations of the works of Japanese haiku masters appeared in The Essential Haiku: Versions of Bash, Buson, and Issa (1994).

Hass edited collections of the poetry of Robinson Jeffers and of Tomas Tranströmer, coedited The Pushcart Prize XII (1987), and edited the anthology Into the Garden, a Wedding Anthology: Poetry and Prose on Love and Marriage (1993). He edited Poet’s Choice: Poems for Everyday Life (1998) and The Best American Poetry, 2001 (2001).


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Robert Hass received a Woodrow Wilson Fellowship (1963-1964) and a Danforth Fellowship (1963-1967). His first collection of poetry, Field Guide, won the Yale Series of Younger Poets competition in 1979. When Stanley Kunitz presented the award, he applauded Hass’s awareness of the plant and animal worlds as well as his wedding of the natural and moral universes.

Hass’s works has continued to gain for him recognition as a leading poet of his generation. His second collection, Praise, won the William Carlos Williams Award. In 1984, he was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur grant as well as the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award for criticism for his Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (1984). That same year, he also received an Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1989, he was awarded a Silver Medal in poetry from the Commonwealth Club of California for Human Wishes and fellowship from the Guggenheim Foundation.

In 1996, his Sun Under Wood won a Silver Medal from the Commonwealth Club of California and a second National Book Critics Circle Award, as he served his two-year tenure as poet laureate consultant in poetry to the Library of Congress (1995-1997). In 1997, Hass was presented the Fred Cody Award for lifetime achievement. Time and Materials won the National Book Award in Poetry (2007), the Northern California Book Award in poetry (2007), and the Pulitzer Prize in poetry (2008). He became a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2002 and served as chancellor for the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Billington, James. “Writing for the Mind and the Heart.” Civilization 3, no. l (January/February, 1996): 91. Outlines Hass’s agenda as poet laureate of the United States, including his persuasion of newspapers to publish both old and new poetry in the belief that public poetry enriches the public discourse.

Davison, Peter. “The Laureate as Onlooker.” The Atlantic Monthly 279, no. 3 (March, 1997): 100-103. Offers an overview of Hass’s first four collections of poems, charging him with contemplative passivity and a “beautiful stillness,” which, although charming and modest, suggest the posture of an onlooker rather than an energetic participant.

Gardner, Thomas. Regions of Unlikeness: Explaining Contemporary Poetry. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. This book examines poets who examine how language both enables their poetry to exist and limits their ability to express themselves. Contains a chapter on and interview with Hass.

Gibson, Margaret. “Paying Attention.” Journal of the Arts and Religion 60 (Winter 2008/2009): 129-133. Gibson discusses Hass’s work alongside that of the painter Fra Angelico and Thomas Merton as a means of exploring the idea of being fully human, as opposed to “only human.”

Hass, Robert. “An Interview with Robert...

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