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Robert Hass wins 2007 National Book Award for his latest poetry

– Robert Hass, a UC Berkeley professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate, is the 2007 winner of the National Book Award in poetry, for "Time and Materials." The prize was announced Wednesday (Nov. 14) in New York City.

Robert Hass
Hass on Hass
Time and Materials book coverEight years of activism, writing, and reflection: Interview with the Berkeleyan features two of his recent poems. 11.8.2007
audio Dinner at the Library:
Hass speaks on a wide range of topics and reads poems from his new book. 11.2.2007
video Writers at Work: Hass reads from his work and discusses his writing process. 10.30.2002 Webcast
"This award recognizes the work of a major poet living and speaking in our midst," said Tony Cascardi, director of UC Berkeley's Townsend Center for the Humanities. "Robert Hass' poetry is richly intelligent and keenly felt in the way it sees and hears the world around us. We come away from his poems with a fresh perception of our surroundings, and with a renewed conviction that this fragile world of ours is deeply worthy of our care."

Announcement of the prize on the National Book Award Web site said that Hass' poems in "Time and Materials" are "grounded in the beauty and energy of the physical world, and in the bafflement of the present moment in American culture."

Previous winners of the poetry award include William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, W.H. Auden, Marianne Moore, Robert Lowell, Robert Bly, Marilyn Hacker and Philip Levine.

In an interview with poet Craig Morton Teicher before the award announcement, the unassuming San Francisco native was asked what it would mean to him to win the National Book Award. "You know," Hass said, "I so much admire the other poets that I'm going to feel great no matter who wins—almost all of them are really old comrades in this art, so I feel very easy about that whole business."

National Book Award judges consider only books written by American citizens and published in the United States between Dec. 1 of the previous year and Nov. 30 of the current year. This year's awards ceremony will be broadcast on BOOK TV on C-SPAN2 on Saturday (Nov. 17). Check local listings for the exact time.

Hass, who was named the U.S. poet laureate from 1995 to 1997 by the Library of Congress, is credited with turning the largely ceremonial post into one actively advancing literature and literacy. Hass also wrote a column for The Washington Post that introduced new poets to the public and advanced reading. He currently is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

His numerous awards include two National Book Critics Circle Awards, one for criticism with "Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry" (1984) and the other for poetry in 1996 with "Sun Under Wood."

Hass' other books of poetry include "Sun Under Wood: New Poems" (1996), for which he also was nominated for the National Book Award; "Human Wishes" (1989); "Praise" (1979); "Field Guide" (1973), which was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series; and "Facing the River" (1995). Hass also co-translated several volumes of poetry with the late Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz, a Nobel Laureate and UC Berkeley professor emeritus. Hass is the author or editor of several other collections of essays and translations, including "The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa" (1994) and "Poet's Choice: Poems for Everyday Life" (1998).

"Professor Hass is a great poet, and it's absolutely wonderful to see his work receive this kind of recognition," said Janet Broughton, dean of arts and humanities in UC Berkeley's College of Letters & Science and a professor of philosophy. "As his students know, he's also an inspiring teacher, and he's been dedicated to bringing poetry to the whole campus through the library's Lunch Poems series. I'm sure I speak for everyone here whose lives he has touched when I say how delighted I am by the news of this award."

In the National Book Awards ceremonies, UC Berkeley alumna, novelist and essayist Joan Didion also received the 2007 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.