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Robert Hass Discusses His Pulitzer Prize-Winning Poetry

"Time and Materials" by Robert Hass won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for poetry, becoming the first book of poetry since 1983 to win both the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. Hass talks about the collection.

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    There were actually two winners in the poetry category this year. Philip Schultz won for his book "Failure" and Robert Hass for his book "Time and Materials," which also won the National Book Award.

    Hass is a noted translator and teacher at the University of California at Berkeley. He served as poet laureate for two years in the mid-'90s, the last time he joined us on this program.

    So I can say welcome back, and congratulations to you.

  • ROBERT HASS, Poet:

    Thank you, Jeff, very much.


    I think I'm right that many of these poems in this collection were written at a time when you had various public roles.


    That's right.


    Laureate, you were writing a column, doing various things. So what did these poems represent for you?


    Well, I don't know what they represented, but they were a way of checking in with myself, inside that life, that is, I could be — you know, I could be on a train heading from New York to some place in New Jersey, and see the lights burning out over the grasslands, and say to myself, "Secret, there's fire out over the grasslands."

    It was a way of — if lines came to me, it was like checking in with myself. "You still there?" "Yes, I'm still there."


    Checking in with yourself while you're living this public life, talking up poetry to the world.


    Yes. Yes.