Carlow students interview International Poetry Forum founder, as part of IPF archival effort

PITTSBURGH – “The full beauty of poetry does not reveal itself until it is heard” – Samuel J. Hazo

Those are words written by a master of poetry who gave Carlow University interns a deeper look into the beauty of the literary prose, and illuminated why its preservation is important to Pittsburgh and the community.

In October, senior English major Caitlin McDonough hosted a 45-minute interview with Samuel J. Hazo, PhD., noted poet, playwright and novelist who founded the International Poetry Forum in Pittsburgh. The session was part of the Council of Independent Colleges’ $10k “Humanities Research for the Public Good” grant received by Carlow earlier this year.

“It was stellar,” Carlow’s English program director Sigrid King, PhD, said of the session. “Caitlin did a tremendous amount of research leading up to interview, about the International Poetry Forum, about Sam Hazo. She was well prepared.”

King said McDonough also received feedback from fellow project interns, and submitted her questions to a college dean for advice.

McDonough said the interviewing was enlightening.

“Sam Hazo’s extensive knowledge and love of poetry is clear when he speaks, reciting others’ poetry and his own off the cuff,” McDonough said. “Interviewing him opened my eyes to the amount of work that went into making the IPF happen, and to the importance of spoken poetry. It was such a pleasure to speak with him and to see his own personal collections of books and IPF materials. “

The interview also gave interns the opportunity to create a lasting video for future scholars. The video will be featured in a gallery exhibition next spring and will become a permanent part of the IPF archives.

James Balsimo, media arts and animation major, did the videography and audio capture for the interview.

“I was extremely grateful to have shared the opportunity with Caitlin and Dr. King to interview Mr. Hazo and to have helped document it for the Carlow archives.

“Upon arriving at his home, Mr. Hazo was immediately friendly and welcoming, offering us coffee and cookies. Over the course of the interview, Mr. Hazo recalled several poems and anecdotes in which he showed us how to see the poetic nature of everyday life. I hope that our work serves to cement Mr. Hazo’s legacy as an inspirational and intelligent man.”

King said interns have been working in the IPF archives since the start of the semester, reviewing materials about writers who participated in the forum from 1966 to the mid-1970s.

Hazo said the interview was “well thought out” and “relevant,” and commended students for archiving the poems.

“Real poetry is always in the present tense,” Hazo said. “Poems written 400 years ago, like Shakespeare, are as if they were written yesterday morning.

“I think this (project) is something that is unique in the world. You have poems there by major American poets as well as poets from 35 other countries that went from 1966 to 2009 (entire scope of IPF). They are all recorded. Nobody in the world has that.”

King said one of her favorite Hazo quote is Poetry is incomplete until it reaches an audience.

“I think listening to him talk about the poetry forum and recite poems was very powerful and moving. One of his poems drew Caitlin and me to tears.”

Interns working on the project also include seniors KJ Miller (Creative Writing), Sarah Smilowitz (Art) and Kaitlyn Stamm (Communication).

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