“From the time of the earliest cultures to the present, poets have been seen as the most reliable witnesses because they are not only veritable ‘seers’ of the exterior and interior world, but they are able to convey their experience of it to others in language. And such expressions present us with visions of the world within and the world without that are not only particular to each poet but are also capable of being shared by us. Somehow this experience transforms our outlook and our very values in ways that nothing else can do.
“The greatest poets in history have endured because their expressed visions have helped us see and feel those things that are permanently true of the human condition. In our era when so much of what passes for poetry is really sociology, ideology, rhetoric or mere wordplay, it is well to be reminded of the fact that great poetry is more—much more—than that. Whether it inspires insight or wonder, visionary poetry is more than a different use of language. It is another language—a language that always manages to outlive its authors, its circumstances and the time of its creation. Poems come into existence out of absolute and unavoidable and largely inexplicable necessity. They are ongoing presences, and ongoing presences have no past tense because they always exist in the now. In this sense, Ezra Pound noted, all literature—if it is literature at all—is contemporary.
“Each of the essays in this book deals with some aspect of poetry’s visionary nature—its awe-inspiring impact; its reliance upon feeling as being more dependable a form of knowledge than the conclusions of science or discursive reason; its capacity to convey the mysterious so that the final result is not mere pleasure but wisdom; its essential difference from mere verse; its challenge to translators who struggle to re-create in one language what is poetically present in another; its capability of inspiring poets to spring the locks of falsifying or stultifying forms of expression in order to say what they feel and see as they actually felt and saw it.” From the author’s Introduction
The author of books of poetry, fiction, essays, and plays, Samuel Hazo is the founder and director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University, where he taught for 43 years. His recent books are The Holy Surprise of Right Now and As They Sail (poetry), Stills (fiction), Feather and Mano a Mano (drama) and Spying for God (essays). His translations include Denis de Rougemont’s The Growl of Deeper Waters, Nadia Tueni’s Lebanon: Twenty Poems for One Love, and Adonis’ The Pages of Day and Night. His book of poems, Just Once: New and Previous Poems, received the Maurice English Poetry Award in 2003, and a new collection of poems entitled A Flight to Elsewhere was published in 2005. He was most recently honored with the Griffin Award for Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame. A National Book Award finalist, he was chosen the first State Poet of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Governor Robert Casey in 1993, and he served until 2003.