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Monday, May 8, 2017

Fwd: Monday's poet is Samuel Hazo

The Poetry Show -- May 8, 2017 -- Samuel Hazo

with Janet Harrison

The son of Lebanese and Syrian immigrants, Samuel Hazo was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 19, 1928. After his mother died when he was only six years old, his aunt became the primary caretaker for his brother and him. In 1949 he graduated magna cum laude from the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and then enlisted in the Marine Corps, serving as a captain. Returning to Pittsburgh after his military service, he earned an M.A. from Duquesne University and a Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. An extremely prolific writer, Samuel Hazo has published in many genres: novels, plays, essays, a memoir, a film script, and more than 30 books of poetry and translations. Among is recent publications in poetry are The Song of the Horse: A Selection of Poems 1958-2008 (Autumn House Press, 2008) and They Rule the World (Syracuse University Press, 2016). He founded the International Poetry Forum in 1966. The organization brought more than 800 poets and performers to Pittsburgh, including such luminaries as Seamus Heaney and Robert Pinsky. Additionally he taught English (1955-1998) and served as an associate Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (1961-1966) at Duquesne University. In 1993, he was appointed poet laureate of Pennsylvania, a position he held for a decade. His poetry is both personal and political, and has been praised by poets such as Naomi Shihab Nye and Martín Espada. 

Responding with approval to a remark a friend wrote to him in a letter, "Knowing is stifling; not knowing is creative," Hazo commented, "We live in a world obsessed with the ultimate value of information and the pursuit of the factual over the ambiguous, the obscure or the mysterious." He goes on to draw an important distinction between the language of communication (everything from conversation to journalism, from text messaging to expository prose) and the language of communion (poetic statements, the arts and literature). He states, "Life, however, is by nature not static. It is ultimately a mystery; it has more in common with what we cannot know than what we do know." 

This week's featured poem, "Only the New Branches Bloom," is from Song of the Horse: A Selection of Poems from 1958-2008 (Autumn House Press, 2008). 


Denying what it means to doubt, 
  this year's forsythias unfold
  and flood the air with yellow 
                  They say it's time
  I opened up, time I learned
  French, time I liked less
  and loved more, time
  I listened to the sun, time
  I made time. 
                         Why not? 
Can days of making sense
  of days that make no sense
  make sense? 
                          If nothing's sure
  but nothing's sure, then reading
  Montesquieu must wait. 
Preparing for my enemies must
            And gravity the hurrier
  must wait because forsythias 
  are happening. 
                             They make me
  turn my back on forts, 
  insurance policies, inoculations, 
  wire barbed or braided, 
  bodyguards and all that folderol
  of fear. 
               They say that this
  year's blossoms will outlive
  the lasting death of Mars. 
There are no flowers on the stars. 

John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV

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