Monday, October 20, 2008

To Paris by Samuel Hazo

To Paris by Samuel Hazo is a lovely collection of poems, beautifully linked by theme or imagery. His choices are clearly made with a consciousness of wanting the pieces to not only stand alone but to weave together to at least give the reader a sense of narrative, an emotional journey that feels as though it has a beginning, a middle, and an end. After reading this book oh-so-s-l-o-w-l-y, I realized that I rarely hear Hazo’s name mentioned when people list favorite poets and I’m not sure why. His talent is evident in every piece. His confidence in his words is clear. However, he doesn’t have the sort of arrogance or pretensions that one often finds in other poets whose names are more immediately listed.
White Silence
You work more slowly now.

It’s not the years.

                    It’s

   how the years insist on being

   kept in mind that tires you.

You sit in death’s lap and know it.

Year’s back, you imitate Georges

   Rouault, painting sundowns

   in the morning.

                    Now you reach

   For noons at midnight, and they’re gone.

But still you reach . . .

                     Beyond

   your window you can see a pair

   of helicopters snoop like dragonflies

   for traffic clots.

                   A bird-chalked

   general goes on commanding

   from his rusting saddle.

                         Vapor shimmies

   from the manhole lids like steam

   from old volcanoes.

                     You’d love

   to paint the silence there.

                       Impossible?

No more impossible than making maps

   or sketching nudes.

                          What else

   are maps but studies in abstraction?

Whoever saw the earth from those

   perspectives?  

                 Who christened Europe

   green and Asia blue?

        And as

   for nudes, what are they but

   complexities of light and lines?

You catch the light by paining in

   the lines.

                Later you erase the lines.

You feel the silence of the street

   that way.

                You’ve walked those stones

   so many times they talk to you.

You listen with your heels.

                             If you

   could solve—if you could only

   solve that silence with a brush . . .

To see is not enough.

   You’ve seen

   too much already, and you don’t

   forget.

             You even notice how

   the recto-verso greens of dollars

   reproduce the tails and heads

   of maple leaves.

                         Half your

   life is learning to express

   that kind of trivial amazement.



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