UC Berkeley Web Feature
English professor Robert Hass wins Pulitzer Prize for poetry for "Time and Materials"
BERKELEY – Robert Hass, an award-winning UC Berkeley professor of English and former U.S. poet laureate, has won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for his latest book, "Time and Materials."
Hass, who won the National Book Award for poetry in 2007 for the same collection of poems, shares the award with poet Philip Schultz, author of "Failure," a collection of poetry. The prize, announced today (Monday, April 7) carries a $10,000 award. It is issued for a distinguished volume of original verse by an American author.
Some previous winners include Robert Frost, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Gary Snyder, Sylvia Plath, William Carlos Williams, Archibald Macleish and Gwendolyn Brooks, whose archive is at UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library and who was the first African American to win the prize.
Hass is the fourth current member of the UC Berkeley faculty to win a Pulitzer Prize. The others are Lowell Bergman, a professor of journalism whose New York Times story about American workers and safety rules — written with David Barstow — received the Pulitzer Prize for public service in 2004; Leon Litwack, a professor emeritus of history, who received the Pulitzer Prize for U.S. history in 1980; and Ben Bagdikian, former dean of the Graduate School of Journalism, who won the prize for local reporting in 1953. Work by Richard Ofshe, a UC Berkeley professor emeritus of sociology, contributed to the 1979 Pulitzer Prize for public service won by the Point Reyes Light newspaper.
Hass said he's very grateful for the prize and "a bit overwhelmed by the generosity of the Cal community, which has flooded me with notes of congratulations." While he says that his students are pleased, he thinks they "will want me to turn my attention to their work again as soon as possible and I am trying to do that (with summer in my sights)."
Jurors in the 2008 poetry category included Claudia Emerson, a professor of English at Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., poet Wesley McNair of Maine, and Natasha Trethewey, an associate professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta. Emerson won the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry in 2006, and Trethewey won it in 2007.
Janet Broughton, dean of arts and humanities at UC Berkeley and a professor of philosophy, 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 Professor Hass's poetry, which is deeply personal and yet passionately engaged with the great public issues of our time. It seems especially right that Professor Hass should receive this kind of nationwide acclaim; he's been a longtime champion of poetry as a force in our national life."
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. In addition to his poetry recognized with the Pulitzer Prize, his 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.
He was the U.S. poet laureate from 1995 to 1997. In addition to teaching at UC Berkeley, Hass 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 in the Library of Congress. His wife, Brenda Hillman, also is a poet.
After serving as the host of UC Berkeley's Lunch Poems series for several years, Hass gave a reading of his own poetry at a Lunch Poems gathering in December 2003; a Webcast recording of the reading is available online.
He will participate in "Poetry Live!," part of the Walnut Creek Library Foundation's observance of April as National Poetry Month, on Thursday, April 10. The free program begins at 7 p.m. at the Lindsay Wildlife Museum at 1931 First Ave. in Walnut Creek.