Lewis & Clark Welcomes Former National Poet Laureate Robert Hass
On February 6 Lewis & Clark will host prize-winning poet and activist Robert Hass, who will give a reading of his poetry at 6 p.m in the Council Chambers. Hass’ poetry reflects his passion for nature and is deeply influenced by the storytelling traditions of the West Coast, including the San Francisco literary scene and the Beat poets of the 1950s. Whether through poetry, essays, or translated verse, his work is a testament to his belief in the transformative power of education and the interconnectedness of the natural world.
A Northern California native, Hass earned his PhD from Stanford University in 1971, and published his first poetry collection, Field Guide, in 1973. He has since published five collections of poetry, in addition to several essay collections and a series of translations of the work of Polish poet Czesław Miłosz. From 1995 to 1997, he served as the United States Poet Laureate and used his position to advocate for literacy and environmental education through a program at Saint Mary’s College of California called River of Words. He has also organized events like the Watershed Environmental Poetry Festival, a conference for novelists, poets, and storytellers focused around making connections between writing, nature, and community.
“It has been a hope of mine for a long time to bring Robert Hass to Lewis & Clark,” said Morgan S. O’Dell Professor of Humanities and Associate Professor of English Mary Szybist. “He was my teacher when I was in graduate school at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and I am eager for my own students to experience his presence, his deeply humane and expansive thinking, and his work, all of which were profoundly inspiring to me. I hope his poems will reach more readers during his visit here—people who may not know yet how much his poetry will come to matter to them.”
Hass was awarded the 2007 National Book Award and shared the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for his collection Time and Materials: Poems 1997–2005. He was awarded the MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship for his work, as well as the 2014 Wallace Stevens Award. He is a professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley, and recently published an essay collection titled A Little Book on Form: An Exploration Into the Formal Imagination of Poetry.
“I don’t know another writer who is as informed as he is about the global state of our planet, or who is grappling as movingly with it in poetry,” added Szybist. “I’m thrilled that he will spend an evening with us.”
The reading is free and open to the public.