UC Berkeley News


Pulitzer for a poet
Berkeley’s Robert Hass shares 2008 award for his collection Time and Materials

| 09 April 2008

Professor of English Robert Hass is, as of this week, one of three Pulitzer Prize winners on the Berkeley faculty. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

Robert Hass, an award-winning professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate, has won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his latest book, Time and Materials (Ecco/HarperCollins, 2007).

Hass, who won the National Book Award for poetry in 2007 for the same collection of poems, shares this year’s award with poet Philip Schultz, author of Failure, a collection of his poetry. The prize, announced Monday, carries a $10,000 award. It is issued for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author.

Previous winners include Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Gary Snyder, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Archibald Macleish, and Gwendolyn Brooks. The latter’s archive is at Berkeley’s Bancroft Library; she was the first African American to win the prize.

Hass is the third current member of the Berkeley faculty to win a Pulitzer Prize. The others are Leon Litwack, professor emeritus of history, who received a Pulitzer for U.S. history in 1980; and Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, who won the coveted award in 1953 for local reporting.

Janet Broughton, dean of arts and humanities at Berkeley, expressed appreciation for the latest award for Hass.

“First the National Book Award and now the Pulitzer Prize!” she said. “I’m thrilled by this recognition for Bob Hass’ poetry, which is deeply personal and yet passionately engaged with the great public issues of our time. It seems especially right that Bob should receive this kind of nationwide acclaim; he’s been a longtime champion of poetry as a force in our national life.”

In his own words
Robert Hass was interviewed by the Berkeleyan last November, just before winning the National Book Award.

After serving as the host of Berkeley’s Lunch Poems series for several years, Hass gave a reading of his own poetry at a December 2003 Lunch Poems gathering.)

Another webcast, from the Berkeley Writers at Work series sponsored by College Writing Programs, features Hass reading from his work and taking audience questions on Oct. 30, 2002.

In their announcement, the Pulitzer judges noted the familiar landscapes of Hass’s winning poetry — San Francisco, the Northern California coast, the Sierra high country — “in addition to some of his oft-explored themes: art; the natural world; the nature of desire; the violence of history; the power and limits of language; and, as in his other books, domestic life and the conversation between men and women. New themes emerge as well, perhaps: the essence of memory and of time.”

Hass, 67, has made important contributions to poetry, criticism, and translation. His earlier books of poetry include Sun Under Wood, Human Wishes, Praise, and Field Guide, which won the 1973 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition. His critical essays are assembled in Twentieth Century Pleasures, and the poets he has translated include Czeslaw Milosz, Tomas Tranströmer, and masters of Japanese haiku.

In addition to teaching at Berkeley (where he has been on the faculty since 1989), Hass, who was U.S. poet laureate from 1995 to 1997, is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He is co-founder of River of Words, an organization that promotes environmental and arts education in affiliation with the Center for the Book at the Library of Congress. His wife, Brenda Hillman, also is a poet.

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