Robert Hass, poet and professor, up for PEN essay award

Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States and current Distinguished Professor in Poetry and Poetics at UC Berkeley, has been shortlisted for the PEN/ Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay for his 2012 book What Light Can Do.

The book, which explores such subjects as how we see and treat the earth, the relationship between literature and religion and the work of writers ranging from Anton Chekhov and Wallace Stevens to Cormac McCarthy and Korean poet Ko Un, is one of three in the essay category. The $10,000 prize is awarded “for a book of essays published in 2012 that exemplifies the dignity and esteem that the essay form imparts to literature.”

The other books shortlisted in the essay category are The Story of America, by Jill Lepore, and Waiting for the Barbarians, by Daniel Mendelsohn.

The annual awards from PEN, which calls itself “the world’s leading literary and human rights organization,” recognize literary accomplishment in fields including fiction, poetry, science writing, essays, sports writing, biography, children’s literature, translation and drama. PEN will confer 16 distinct awards, fellowships, grants and prizes in 2013, awarding nearly $150,000 to writers, editors and translators.

The final winners and runners-up will be announced later this summer, and will be honored in October at the PEN Literary Awards Ceremony in New York.

All of the 2013 judges and shortlisted writers can be found on the PEN website.