You read the poems of The Next Time We Saw Paris by Samuel Hazo, and you think that this poet has mastered the art of wisdom poetry. Or perhaps he’s just wise, and when he writes a poem, he can’t help but write wisdom poetry.
His words are simple and direct. Hazo wastes no time getting to the point. The poem quickly explains what it’s about, and then it provides the detail or example or explanation. I understand this style much better than I used to; I think it comes with age. You reach an age when you’re not going to waste time with flowery or profound introductions, filled with metaphor and allusion. Instead, you get right to the point, and then you tell the story behind it. You might not have the time to do anything else.
A favorite poem among many favorite poems in this collection is “A Love Like No Other,” which tells you right up front what the point or moral or idea is, before it provides the example or evidence supporting it. In this case, it’s a short story whose ending sacks you upside the head.
A Love Like No Other
It happens rarely, if at all.
Age means little.
All that matters
is the mystery.
to manhood our son’s love
for his godmother never lessened.
Sixty years between them
made no difference.
they could sit in the same room,
say little or nothing and be
she even let him cut
her hair …
A decade later
she told my wife during
their last moments together,
“A very nice young man
always comes to see me,
and he looks just like your son.”
This poem is not an exception in the collection; it’s the rule. In each poem, Hazo speaks simply, directly, clearly, and forcefully. Time’s too short and growing shorter, so let’s not waste it to meander our way to what it’s all about. Make your point, provide the background, and move on.
Every poem is a gem.
Hazo is the author of numerous works of poetry, drama, fiction, criticism, memoir, and translations. He received a B.A. degree from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. degree from Duquesne University, and a Ph.D. degree from the University of Pittsburgh. He taught for 43 years at Duquesne, where he still serves as professor emeritus of English. Hazo is the founder and director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, which hosted readings by more than 800 poets during its existence from 1966 to 2009. His writings have received numerous awards and honors, and he’s received 12 honorary doctorates. From 1993 to 2003, he served as the State of Pennsylvania’s first poet laureate.
In The Next Time We Saw Paris, the varied subjects are treated exactly the same. It may be love, memory, country, the sea, darkness, art, dancers, literature, family, and many others. Understanding is displayed by simple statements of wisdom, accompanied by simple statements of evidence. Hazo has provided a gift here, an enriching and profound gift.
How to Read a Poem uses images like the mouse, the hive, the switch (from the Billy Collins poem)—to guide readers into new ways of understanding poems. Anthology included.
“I require all our incoming poetry students—in the MFA I direct—to buy and read this book.”
—Jeanetta Calhoun Mish
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