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).

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 teaches 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 

 

Heroic Simile

Robert Hass, 1941
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 sawing 
and on the third day he brought his uncle.

They stacked logs in the resinous air, 
hacking the small limbs off,
tying those bundles separately. 
The slabs near the root
were quartered and still they were awkwardly large; 
the logs from midtree they halved:
ten bundles and four great piles of fragrant wood, 
moons and quarter moons and half moons 
ridged by the saw's tooth.

The woodsman and the old man his uncle 
are standing in midforest
on a floor of pine silt and spring mud.
They have stopped working 
because they are tired and because 
I have imagined no pack animal 
or primitive wagon. They are too canny 
to call in neighbors and come home 
with a few logs after three days' work. 
They are waiting for me to do something 
or for the overseer of the Great Lord 
to come and arrest them.

How patient they are!
The old man smokes a pipe and spits. 
The young man is thinking he would be rich 
if he were already rich and had a mule. 
Ten days of hauling
and on the seventh day they'll probably 
be caught, go home empty-handed 
or worse. I don't know 
whether they're Japanese or Mycenaean
and there's nothing I can do.
The path from here to that village 
is not translated. A hero, dying, 
gives off stillness to the air. 
A man and a woman walk from the movies 
to the house in the silence of separate fidelities. 
There are limits to imagination.

From Praise by Robert Hass, published by the Ecco Press. Copyright © 1978 by Robert Hass. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Robert Hass

Robert Hass

Robert Hass was born in San Francisco on March 1, 1941. He

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poem
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-