Robert Hass & Brenda Hillman
February 2 2020, 7pm
Steinfeld Warehouse Community Arts Center
$5 General / $3 Students / No one turned away
Poetry reading followed by Q&A
Light refreshments served
Handicap accessible / Accommodations available on request
BRENDA HILLMAN is known for poems that draw on elements of found texts and document, personal meditation, observation, and literary theory. Often described as “sensuous” and “luminescent,” Hillman’s poetry investigates and pushes at the possibilities of form and voice, while remaining grounded in topics such as geology, the environment, politics, family, and spirituality. In an interview with Sarah Rosenthal, Hillman described her own understanding of form: “It is the artist’s job to make form. Not even to make it, but to allow it. Allow form. And all artists have a different relationship to it, and a different philosophy of it … I think that when you are trying to open up a territory—in this case I was working with a desire to open the lyric—you have to be greedy, in that you want more than you can do. And you’re always bound to fail.” Praising Hillman’s deft handling of form and subject, Marjorie Welish wrote, “Each poem … creates its own experimental configuration, within which the phrase swerves and discombobulates sense, as several registers of subject complicate the sampling of experiences and also as the experimental format throws the lyric into symbolic disarray one moment and naturalist scrutiny the next. And even more: she writes as if the lyric poem had a political calling.”
Born in 1951 in Tucson, Arizona, Hillman earned degrees at Pomona College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The author of over 10 books of poetry, she has received numerous awards for her work including fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Society of America, as well as a Pushcart Prize and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Read the full bio.
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.
From 1995 to 1997, Hass set aside his personal role as poet to take up the mantle of the nation’s poet, serving as U.S. poet laureate. A largely ceremonial position, historically speaking, the poet laureate has recently become far more of a public advocate for poets and their work. In a sense, the new role was a logical extension of Hass’s personal, private work to a public arena. Read the full bio.