Robert Hass is one of the most celebrated and widely-read contemporary American poets. In addition to his success as a poet, Hass is also recognized as a leading critic and translator, notably of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and Japanese haiku masters Basho, Buson, and Issa. Critics celebrate Hass’s own poetry for its clarity of expression, its concision, and its imagery, often drawn from everyday life. “Hass has noted his own affinity for Japanese haiku,” the poet Forrest Gander remarked, “and his work similarly attends to the details of quotidian life with remarkable clarity.” Gander described Hass’s gift for “musical, descriptive, meditative poetry.” Carolyn Kizer wrote in the New York Times Book Review that Hass” is so intelligent that to read his poetry or prose, or to hear him speak, gives one an almost visceral pleasure.” Hass told interviewer David Remnick in the Chicago Review, “Poetry is a way of living. … a human activity like baking bread or playing basketball.” Hass’s first collection, Field Guide (1973), won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award. It drew on Hass’s native California countryside and background in Slavic studies. “The poems in Field Guide,” wrote Gander, “are rich with Russian accents, aromas of ferny anise and uncorked wines, and references to plant and animal life: the green whelks and rock crabs, tanagers and Queen Anne’s lace, sea spray and pepper trees of the Bay Area.” In the Southwest Review Michael Waters declared, “Field Guide is a means of naming things, of establishing an identity through one’s surroundings, of translating the natural world into one’s private history. This is a lot to accomplish, yet Robert Hass manages it with clarity and compassion.” Hass confirmed his ability with Praise (1979), his second volume of poems, which won the William Carlos Williams Award. “In many ways,” Gander explained, “Praise addresses the problems implicit in the first book: Can the act of naming the world separate us from the world? How is it possible to bear grief, to accept death, and how can the spirit endure?” Writing in the Chicago Review, Ira Sadoff remarked that Praise “might even be the strongest collection of poems to come out in the late seventies … [It] marks Hass’s arrival as an important, even pivotal, young poet.” In 1984, Hass published Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry, a collection of previously published essays and reviews. In the volume, the author examines American writers (including Robert Lowell and James Wright) as well as European and Japanese poets. The book was well-received and won many awards, including the National Book Critics Circle Award. “Mr. Hass’s style balances conversational directness and eloquent complexity,” noted New York Times Book Review contributor Anthony Libby. He concluded that “Mr. Hass believes that poetry is what defines the self, and it is his ability to describe that process that is the heart of this book’s pleasure.” Since the publication of Twentieth Century Pleasures, Hass has continued to write both poetry and prose. His third collection of poetry, Human Wishes (1989), experimented with longer lines and prose paragraphs, privileging process and meditation over the images that had filled his earlier work. David Barber, writing for the Boston Review, noted that Hass had “cultivated a more open, intimately epistolary verse that makes room for everything from strenuous metaphysics, beguiling storytelling, and wry recollections to haiku-like snapshots, flinty epigrams, and tremulous lyricism.” The Nation critic Don Bogen explained that Human Wishes ”reveals [Hass’s] basic concerns: He is a student of desire, of what we want and how likely we are to get it.” “In Human Wishes,” Bogen concluded, “Robert Hass captures both the brightness of the world and its vanishing.” Hass paid tribute to some of his non-Western mentors in The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa (1994), translations of short works by the most famous masters of the short Japanese poem. “The translations … must by anyone’s standard be considered remarkable poetic achievements in themselves,” wrote Andrew Rathmann in the Chicago Review, “[They’re] comparable—in terms of sheer written fluency—to the best poems in his three previous books” of poetry. When it was published in the mid-90s, Hass’s book also brought a traditional Japaense poetic form to an American audience. Hass’s other major work as a translator is his decades-long project of translating the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz. With Milosz, Hass has translated over seven collections of the Nobel Prize-winning poet’s work. In an interview with Guernica, Hass talked about the influence of Milosz on his own thinking about poetry and politics. “You can aim for perfection if you stay away from the hard subjects. But if you’re going to do what Milosz does, you can’t aim for perfection; your work is going to be messy and opinionated,” Hass argued. Hass's next collection of poems, Sun Und
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"Robert Hass" Poetry.com. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 1 Mar. 2024. <https://www.poetry.com/poet/Robert+Hass>.