Geographic Connection to Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh, Allegheny County
Professor emeritus of English at Duquesne University, Samuel Hazo was the first Poet Laureate of Pennsylvania.
Samuel Hazo was born on July 19, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He earned his BA from the University of Notre Dame in 1948. A few years after, Hazo retuned to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to attended Duquesne University, where he received his MA in 1955. He further continued his education by earning his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 1957. In 1993, he was the first poet laureate of Pennyslvania. Hazo is the author of over 30 books of poetry and was also the commentator and narrator on National Public Radio (NPR), KDKA, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hazo is the Founder of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Duquesne University.
Samuel John Hazo was born on July 19, 1928, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Sam and Lottie (Abdou) Hazo, who were Lebanese and Assyrian immigrants. When Hazo was just a young boy, his mother died, and his aunt took over as the primary caretaker of him and his brother, Robert. During his early childhood, Hazo became very interested in learning and had an urge to always discover more. Hazo attributes much of his curiosity for writing to his aunt, who made education a top priority for him and his brother.
During his undergraduate years at the University of Notre Dame (from which he graduated magna cum laude), Hazo began writing poems at times when he felt inspired or just simply for recognition in literary magazines. Hazo originally began studying law at the University of Notre Dame, but soon changed directions to English, and hasn’t had any regrets since. After earning his B.A. degree in 1948 from the University of Notre Dame, Hazo enlisted in the United States Marine Corps where he served as a captain. During this time, he had a lot of free time to think about his life and where it was going. He took a closer look at his previously written poems and began molding them into masterpieces. Hazo wrote his poems about the world as he saw it, and writing quickly became a way of therapy for him. He put all of his thoughts and emotions into his poems. In an interview with Dr. David Sokolowski on August 5 and 6 in 1988, Hazo defines the writing of poetry as, “a time when suddenly things come into focus, and you work under the imperative of some impulse, something you did not will into being, that came to you, and you must work it out in words that are just now coming to you, that are making you put everything that you have at that moment right on the line.”
After leaving the Marine Corps, Hazo returned to his hometown of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to continue his education. In 1955, Hazo earned his M.A. from Duquesne University, and two years later he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. After earning his Ph.D., Hazo returned to teach at Duquesne as a professor of English from 1955 to the present. Hazo married the love of his life, Mary Ann. Together they had one son, Samuel R. Hazo, born in 1966.
Hazo is the author of 30 books of poetry and has published many literary magazines and anthologies. He also was the commentator and narrator on National Public Radio, KDKA, based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Hazo has received nine honorary degrees. He was appointed the first state poet laureate for Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by Governor Robert Casey in 1993, and he held this position until 2003. In regards to his position as the first state poet of Pennsylvania, Hazo stated, “My view of the role of a state poet is that he or she should strive to make poetry an expected and readily accepted part of public discourse. To this end, poetry should be an essential part of academic exercises, public events, and newspaper op-ed pages.”
In 1986, Hazo received the Hazlett Memorial Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 1995, he was awarded the Pittsburgh Center for the Arts Cultural Award. He was recently honored with the Griffin Award for Creative Writing from the University of Notre Dame, his alma mater, as well as the Elizabeth Kray Award for Outstanding Service to Poetry from New York University.
Hazo often writes about themes that have relevance to his life. Some of the themes he focuses on include family, Christianity, war, suffering, the absurdity in life, and the mystery of death. His work reflects a strong association to the importance of observation and wonder. In his book of poems, The Past Won’t Stay Behind You, Hazo wrote a poem entitled “Partings.” In this poem Hazo writes:
Even the words
I’m writing now will never be
themselves until I let them go.
Like borrowings that need to be
repaid, they’ve won for me
some wisdom and the mercy of distraction.
And so I read them
gratefully for what they’ve said
and what they could not say.
I stop and breathe and let them go.
In this section of the poem, Hazo is talking about difficultly of parting from someone or something so dear to oneself. He speaks of the significance of the relationship one has with the ones that they are parting from, and that only after truly appreciating them and letting go can one get on with their life.
Samuel Hazo is the Founder and Director of the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which seeks to demonstrate poetry’s relevance and centrality to the public through its oral presentation. He is also the McAnulty Distinguished Professor Emeritus of English at Duquesne University, where he taught for over 40 years. In his quest for greater awareness of the beauty of poetry, Hazo has convinced the Pittsburgh Post Gazette to publish a poem each week in its Saturday edition. For the future, Hazo hopes to be given the opportunity to be doing exactly what he is doing in his life right now: teaching, writing poems, keeping the poetry forum alive, and spending time with his beloved friends and family.
Hazo is currently still writing and living in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and he has a novel forthcoming in 2012 entitled The Time Remaining.
Stills. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 1998.
The Wanton Summer Air. New York: North Point Press, 1982.
Inscripts. Athens: Ohio UP, 1975.
The Color of Reluctance. Story, WY: Dooryard Press, 1986.
Jots Before Sleep. Byblos Press, 2004.
Like a Man Gone Mad: Poems in a New Century. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2010.
The Stroke of a Pen. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2011.
The Time Remaining. Forthcoming in 2012.
Solos. First produced at the Carnegie Lecture Hall, Pittsburgh, 1994.
Until I’m Not Here Anymore. First produced at the Fulton Theatre, Pittsburgh, 1992.
Just Once. Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2002.
Listen with the Eye. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1964.
Blood Rights. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1968.
The Past Won’t Stay Behind You. Fayetteville: U of Arkansas P, 1993.
As They Sail. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1999.
A Flight to Elsewhere. Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2005.
The Song of the Horse. Pittsburgh: Autumn House Press, 2008.
“Samuel (John) Hazo.” The Gale Literary Database: Contemporary Authors Online. 2001. 2006. <>http://www.gale.com>.