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Release: April 26, 2002

UI faculty member Robert Hass is elected to American Academy of Arts and Letters

Poet Robert Hass, a visiting faculty member in the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop, has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The former U.S. Poet Laureate will be inducted into the academy in May.

The American Academy of Arts and Letters is limited to 250 members, so new members are selected only when vacancies occur. Election to membership in the academy is considered one of the highest recognitions of artistic merit in this country.

Founded in 1898 as the National Institute of Arts and Letters, the academy is an honorary society of preeminent American writers, composers, painters, sculptors and architects. Its original members included Henry Adams, Childe Hassam, Mark Twain, William and Henry James and, for their literary achievements, future presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson. The academy also has an honorary membership of 75 foreign artists to strengthen cultural ties with other countries. The academy presents annual literary awards, of which Hass has been a recipient.

Hass was a visiting faculty member in the Writers’ Workshop in 1995 when he was selected U.S. poet laureate, a post he held from 1995 to 1997. He has won the MacArthur ‘Genius’ Fellowship and twice received the National Books Critic Circle Award. His first book, “Field Guide,” earned the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award in 1973.

Hass’ other collections of poetry include “Praise,” “Human Wishes” and “Sun Under Wood.” He also wrote “Twentieth-Century Pleasures,” a book of essays on poetry. He has translated many of the works of Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz and is the editor of Thomas Transtromer’s “Selected Poems: 1954-1986” and “The Essential Haiku: Versions of Basho, Buson, and Issa.” He was co-editor of “The Best American Poetry 2001.”

As U.S. poet laureate, Hass placed an emphasis on literacy and ecological awareness. He helped promote and organize Watershed, a weeklong gathering of writers and environmentalists designed to teach inner-city children about the nation’ s tradition of nature writing.

In addition to his time at the UI, Hass has taught at the State University of New York, Buffalo and St. Mary’s College. A professor of English at the University of California-Berkeley since1989, Hass was named Educator of the Year in 1997 by the North American Association on Environmental Education.

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