Pulitzer Prize-winning UC Berkeley professor receives prestigious award

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Robert Hass, a distinguished campus professor in poetry and poetics and former U.S. poet laureate, won the prestigious Wallace Stevens Award for poetry this year.

The award comes with a $100,000 prize and is administered by the Academy for American Poets. Hass has received a number of distinctions relating to poetry throughout his career, including the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award and a MacArthur Fellowship.

The Wallace Stevens Award is a lifetime achievement award given to a poet with “outstanding and proven mastery in the art of poetry,” according to the academy’s board of chancellors. Past recipients of the award include other prominent poets such as Philip Levine, Louise Gluck and Mark Strand.

“He is the epitome poet the Wallace Stevens Award was created to honor,” said Jane Hirshfield, a chancellor of the academy, in a statement. “As a writer, translator, educator, activist, and model of where clear-seeing honesty, passionate curiosity, and the love of language can take you, Hass stands as one of the lighthouse poets of our time.”

The award is named after American modernist poet Wallace Stevens. Hass said he has been inspired by Stevens since he first read Stevens’ poetry in college. He even had a friend drop him off at Stevens’ old house to make the same walk through a park in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, that the poet made on his way to work at an insurance company, Hass said.

Hirshfield said Hass’ work has enlarged the map of American poetry in immeasurable ways and explores central questions of life, including personal relationships, environmental citizenship and the natural world.

“It is really gratifying to get that expression of support for your work from your peers,” Hass said.

Hass’ peers in the English department also attest to the quality of his poetry, which Geoffrey O’Brien, a campus associate professor of English, described as a “cadenced speech that feels as effortless as conversation but is as carefully made as the strictest metrical verse.”

Campus English lecturer John Shoptaw called Hass a poet of detail and resonant image.

“He’s not shy about confessing what he does not know,” Shoptaw said. “He looks at something not vaguely but long and carefully. One is just humbled by his poetry.”

The award will be presented to Hass at a ceremony in October.

Contact Nico Correia at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @nicolocorreia.