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.
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.