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Robert Hass Biography

(1941– ), Field Guide, Praise, Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry, Human Wishes, The Essential Haiku

Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: William Hart-Smith Biography to Sir John [Frederick William] Herschel Biography

American poet and editor, born in San Francisco, educated at St Mary's College, San Francisco and Stanford University. Hass is one of a group of younger American poets whose work came to critical attention in the early 1970s and who mark an important shift in poetic sensibility away from the confessional and post-confessional lyric mode that dominated American poetry in the 1950s and 1960s, and from the intellectual nihilism of Beat poetry. Hass's work owes much to the influence of Yvor Winters, under whom he studied at Stanford: his early verse is intelligent, syntactically and grammatically uncluttered, but frequently elliptical and difficult. His feeling for the longer verse form, and a capacity to maintain it, is a characteristic of individual poems such as ‘Maps’ and ‘Lament for the Poles of Buffalo’, but he is equally at home in a more conventional lyric medium, as in ‘Spring’ or ‘Child Naming Flowers’. Many of his poems make sympathetic use of Californian landscapes. He was a recipient of the Yale Younger Poets Award in 1972; his first volume of verse, Field Guide (1973), was followed by Praise (1978). Twentieth Century Pleasures: Prose on Poetry (1984) won the National Book Critics Circle Award. Later volumes include Human Wishes (1989) and The Essential Haiku (1994), the latter comprising ‘versions’, as he calls them, of Basho, Buson, and Issa. Five American Poets (1979), edited by Michael Schmidt, contains a selection of his early verse.

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