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Former Pennsylvania poet laureate to present 'Poetry and Public Speech'

| Wednesday, Nov. 6, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
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Former Pennsylvania poet laureate Samuel Hazo

Not much saddens Sam Hazo more than the absence of poetry in our society.

“We're not a poetry-reading or poetry-listening people. It's too bad; it's our loss. All we have is advertising, TV programming, government prose and gossip,” he lamented.

“We don't hear poetry in speech or public life at all. That's a major deficiency in American society because poetry provides insight into ongoing human problems.”

Hazo, a former Pennsylvania poet laureate, will demonstrate this during an hourlong program titled “Poetry and Public Speech” at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at the Northland Public Library, 300 Cumberland Road, McCandless.

He will read works written by himself and others that focus on achievement, disappointment, love, family and other topics.

“Dr. Hazo will discuss the role of memorable words in our lives and our recollections,” said Jane Jubb, manager of adult services for the library and a Franklin Park resident. “He has a wonderful reputation and is very well known. We feel quite privileged to have him come here to present this program.”

The program is free but is limited to the first 60 registrants. People may register at www.northlandlibrary.org or by calling 412-366-8100, ext. 113.

Hazo, 85, of Upper St. Clair, has published 45 books of poetry, fiction and essays. He also has written one film, five plays and seven speeches.

But, he said, he especially loves poetry because “it's the only thing that comes close to saying what I feel.”

Hazo founded the directed the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh in 1966, which engaged more than 400 poets and performers — ranging from Lawrence Ferlinghetti to Princess Grace of Monaco — to recite their works to crowds large and small for more than four decades before funding faded.

He is the McAnulty Distinguished Professor of English Emeritus at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, where he taught for 43 years and has been awarded 11 honorary doctorates.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. Robert P. Casey Sr. named Hazo the first poet laureate for the commonwealth. He served in that role from 1993 to 2003, a time he spent traveling and promoting poetry throughout the state.

With all these achievements, what is Hazo's proudest accomplishment?

“Marrying the girl I love,” he said.

He even wrote a poem or two about it.

Laurie Rees is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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