1988From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Robert Hass was born in San Francisco on March 1, 1941. He attended St. Mary's College in Moraga, California and received both an MA and PhD in English from Stanford University.

His books of poetry include The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems (Ecco Press, 2010); Time and Materials (2007), which won the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; Sun Under Wood: New Poems (Ecco Press, 1996), which won the National Book Critics Circle Award; Human Wishes (Ecco Press, 1989); Praise (Ecco Press, 1979), which won the William Carlos Williams Award; and Field Guide (Yale University Press, 1973), which was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series.

About Hass's work, Kunitz wrote, "Reading a poem by Robert Hass is like stepping into the ocean when the temperature of the water is not much different from that of the air. You scarcely know, until you feel the undertow tug at you, that you have entered into another element."

Hass has also cotranslated several volumes of poetry with Czeslaw Milosz, most recently Facing the River (Ecco Press, 1995), and is author or editor of several other collections of essays and translation, including What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World (Ecco Press, 2012); The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (Ecco Press, 1994); and Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (Ecco Press, 1984).

Most recently, he received the 2014 Wallace Stevens Award for proven mastery in the art of poetry by the Academy of American Poets. About Robert Hass, Academy of American Poets Chancellor Anne Waldman said:

Robert Hass is one of our most humanitarian poets. His poetry streams into the heart and intellect of our collective consciousness, reminding us of what matters most in this world, and in these particularly dark and challenging times. He considers with both a calm and steady meditative gaze the dignity and beauty of the quotidian, the mystery and endangered powers of Nature, the heart break of our warring realities, and the vision of a greater good. He is a national and international treasure. We all admire his generous service as poet laureate of the U.S., and for the strength, wit and lyrical beauties of his own writing poetry and po-ethics.

Hass served as poet laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997 and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007. He lives in California with his wife, poet Brenda Hillman, and is Distinguished Professor in Poetry and Poetics at the University of California, Berkeley.


Selected Bibliography

Poetry

The Apple Trees at Olema: New and Selected Poems (Ecco Press, 2010)
Time and Materials (Ecco Press, 2007)
Sun Under Wood (Ecco Press, 1996)
Human Wishes (Ecco Press, 1989)
Praise (Ecco Press, 1979)
Field Guide (Yale University Press, 1973)

Nonfiction

What Light Can Do: Essays on Art, Imagination, and the Natural World (Ecco Press, 2012)
Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (Ecco Press, 1984)


Multimedia

From the inaugural Poets Forum, October 20, 2007 

 

The Apple Trees at Olema

Robert Hass, 1941
They are walking in the woods along the coast
and in a grassy meadow, wasting, they come upon
two old neglected apple trees. Moss thickened
every bough and the wood of the limbs looked rotten
but the trees were wild with blossom and a green fire
of small new leaves flickered even on the deadest branches.
Blue-eyes, poppies, a scattering of lupine
flecked the meadow, and an intricate, leopard-spotted
leaf-green flower whose name they didn't know.
Trout lily, he said; she said, adder's-tongue.
She is shaken by the raw, white, backlit flaring
of the apple blossoms. He is exultant,
as if some thing he felt were verified,
and looks to her to mirror his response.
If it is afternoon, a thin moon of my own dismay
fades like a scar in the sky to the east of them.
He could be knocking wildly at a closed door
in a dream. She thinks, meanwhile, that moss
resembles seaweed drying lightly on a dock.
Torn flesh, it was the repetitive torn flesh
of appetite in the cold white blossoms
that had startled her. Now they seem tender
and where she was repelled she takes the measure
of the trees and lets them in. But he no longer
has the apple trees. This is as sad or happy
as the tide, going out or coming in, at sunset.
The light catching in the spray that spumes up
on the reef is the color of the lesser finch
they notice now flashing dull gold in the light
above the field. They admire the bird together,
it draws them closer, and they start to walk again.
A small boy wanders corridors of a hotel that way.
Behind one door, a maid. Behind another one, a man
in striped pajamas shaving. He holds the number
of his room close to the center of his mind
gravely and delicately, as if it were the key,
and then he wanders among strangers all he wants. 

From The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass. Copyright © 2010 by Robert Hass. Used by permission of Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

From The Apple Trees at Olema by Robert Hass. Copyright © 2010 by Robert Hass. Used by permission of Ecco/HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

Robert Hass

Robert Hass

Robert Hass, who won the National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize for his collection Time and Materials, served as poet laureate of the United States from 1995 to 1997 and as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2001 to 2007.

by this poet

poem
When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai 
in the gray rain, 
in Cinemascope and the Tokugawa dynasty, 
he fell straight as a pine, he fell 
as Ajax fell in Homer 
in chanted dactyls and the tree was so huge 
the woodsman returned for two days 
to that lucky place before he was done with the
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