Robert Hass

Photo by Barbara Ries
Poet Robert Hass of Inverness

Robert Hass (pronounced “has”) of Inverness has had quite a year. Besides contributing to the West Marin Review as described on page 28, this former U.S. poet laureate (1995-97) was awarded a Pulitzer for his latest collection of poetry, Time and Materials (Ecco, 2007). Now a professor at UC Berkeley, he is married to poet Brenda Hillman, who is a professor at his undergraduate alma mater St. Mary’s. In the presence of such an incomparable wordsmith, we’ll dispense with any more of our words to leave more room for his.

You could live anywhere. Why Marin? I grew up in San Rafael and lived in New York for a while, dreaming of being home and walking on the Matt Davis Trail.

What makes you happy in Marin? Different things in different parts of Marin. The mountain makes me happy and the bays (Tomales and San Francisco) make me happy. The bookstores, especially Point Reyes Books and Book Passage, make me happy. The smell of coffeeberry on the trail between Heart’s Desire Beach and Indian Beach. Memories of the shrimp fishery at China Camp. Memories of my childhood baseball coach, Charlie Pinza, and my childhood basketball coach, Lou Freitas. A couple of restaurants. A marsh hawk skimming over Abbotts Lagoon when the lupine is flowering. A couple of restaurants. Fishing at the breakwater on Point Cavallo. Steep Ravine Trail. Bovine Bakery. Fog, sometimes, and the smell of laurel. My wife.

What bothers you here? At the moment what bothers me is the incivility in the infighting going on about protecting the environment.

What do you value every day? Waking up.

What is your personal idea of luxury? Free time. My wife. A very good chardonnay.

What person has influenced you the most? Impossible to say.

What has been the most fulfilling moment in your work? Doing it. The time to do deep, absorbing work, and the doing of it is a great gift.

What’s your desert-island favorite book or album? Book would probably be Shakespeare’s plays, because I wouldn’t get bored. Harder to imagine a single album, no matter how great, that wouldn’t drive me crazy after a while.

What’s your favorite place to unwind? At home.

Do you have a favorite Marin view? Many. The view from Hawk Hill is certainly one. The view from the top of the hill on Angel Island, looking west, is another. The moment on the Matt Davis Trail when you turn a corner in the trail and the whole coast heaves into view. The view from Chimney Rock in the spring when the wildflowers are thick on the hillsides.

What do you like about yourself? Breathing.

How do you want to be remembered? I would like my beloveds to remember me in whatever way best serves flourishing in their own lives. It would be nice if some lines from my poems stuck in someone’s head the way that some lines of poetry, very much alive, stay in mine. 

Categories: People, Q&A