Robert Hass, Denis Johnson Win National Book Awards


The National Book Foundation announced the winners of the 2007 National Book Awards at a ceremony in New York City last night.

Robert Hass won the award in poetry for Time and Materials (Ecco, 2007). His four previous poetry collections are Sun Under Wood (Ecco, 1996), Human Wishes (Ecco, 1989), Praise (Ecco, 1979), and Field Guide (Yale University Press, 1973), which was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Younger Poets Series. Hass served as poet laureate from 1995 to 1997; he is currently a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. He lives in California with his wife, poet Brenda Hillman, and teaches at the University of California, Berkeley.

Denis Johnson won the award in fiction for Tree of Smoke (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2007). Johnson is the author of seven novels, including Already Dead (HarperCollins, 1997), Fiscadoro (Knopf, 1985), and Angels (Knopf, 1983). He has also published a collection of short stories, Jesus' Son (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1992), and several poetry collections, including The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly (HarperCollins, 1995).

Each winner received $10,000, and each finalist received $1,000. The annual awards honor books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction by U.S. writers published between December 1 and November 30. The judges in poetry were Linda Bierds, David St. John, Vijay Seshadri, Charles Simic, and Natasha Trethewey. The judges in fiction were Andrew Sean Greer, Walter Kirn, David Means, Francine Prose, and Joy Williams.

The National Book Foundation also presented two lifetime achievement awards at last night’s ceremony. Joan Didion received the 2007 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in recognition of her fiction and creative nonfiction imbued with "a distinctive blend of spare, elegant prose and fierce intelligence" and Terry Gross received the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community for her contribution to popular understanding of literature and writing through her author interviews.