Our poet laureate began his term facing an unruly Congress and a growing national literacy problem. As his tenure ends, he's thinking about the "small, local ways we keep ourselves alive."
In accepting the post of poet laureate of the United States two years ago, Robert Hass postponed his writing life for what he has called an "act of citizenship." Since his appointment, he has written a weekly column on poetry syndicated by the Washington Post and has traveled around the country to urge more funding for literacy and education, and to suggest the need for deeper awareness of environmental relationships.
Hass' tenure as poet laureate has been a more public expression of the lifelong concerns that inform his poetry: a close attention to the natural world, a sense of self developed in relation to the landscape, an acute awareness of both the pleasures and pains of being human. His books of poetry include Human Wishes, Praise, and Field Guide. In his latest collection, Sun Under Wood (Hopewell, N.J.: Ecco Press, 1996), Hass says he is writing "the poems of middle age...poems of what's irreparable in the world, things you can't change."