For over five decades, Samuel Hazo has taught his readers about literature and life with generosity and awareness, taking everyday experiences and translating them into songs at once familiar and surprising. In his poetry, fiction, essays, and plays, Hazo, in a style that is unmistakably his own, extols the wonderment and discovery that emerge in the act of writing, in the movement toward wisdom that results from the expression of feeling.
The Stroke of a Pen is a collection of ten occasional essays on a variety of subjects, from the relationship between poetry and public speech, to the pursuit of the literary life, to reading within a cultural context governed by power relations. Two essays focus on religion and literature, and the final five include a literary travel essay on Provence, a counterpointing one on the virtues of not traveling but remaining home, a lighter essay that extends the discussion of home to houses, a memory piece on the actor Gregory Peck, and a personal reflection on the author’s retirement. Throughout, Hazo is belletristic in his approach, calling on such writers as T. S. Eliot, Wilfred Owen, Jacques Maritain, and Nathan A. Scott, Jr., who deeply influences Hazo’s thinking and writing in this entertaining collection.
“The Stroke of a Pen will interest poets, writers, literary scholars, and critics, as well as broadly educated readers, who judge the balkanized, theory-and-jargon-driven engagement of literature to have lost track of the aesthetic dimension essential for the full appreciation of literature and life. By contrast, Samuel Hazo’s book affirms the necessary depth of the aesthetic impulse in the deep sources of the human quest after meaning.” — Daniel Tobin, Emerson College
“Samuel Hazo’s The Stroke of a Pen offers a grand tour from classroom to classics, from the hazards of household plumbing to the pleasures of Provence. He remarks that ‘the chief value of travel for me is the deeper appreciation it gives me of home,’ yet reading these elegant essays leaves the reader with what Hazo realized away from home: ‘a different sense of your very self—a more resonant one, as if you’ve suddenly been underlined for emphasis.’” — *George Dennis O’Brien, president emeritus, University of Rochester*
“It will surprise no one familiar with Samuel Hazo’s strong poetry that his prose is, as this collection of essays demonstrates, incisive, insightful, and at times intense. His love of words permeates every page.” — William J. Byron, S.J., St. Joseph’s University
“Professor Hazo, the first State Poet of Pennsylvania and a distinguished author, combines literature and life across 10 individual essays split into two distinctly contrasting parts. . . . With a balance of literary theory and philosophical allusion, Hazo produces an Ezra Pound-influenced conviction that powerful literature will endure, despite fiscal policy undermining education (essentially committing cultural suicide). . . . With such penmanship, Hazo is a rare breed: timeless in his approach to poetry and prose, dutifully acknowledging contemporaries and colleagues, and unreserved in his erudite pursuits.” — Publishers Weekly Annex Reviews
“The Stroke of a Pen is an inspiring read for anyone with even a casual interest in the arts. It may give . . . emerging poets . . . a stronger sense of purpose and responsibility. If nothing else it should provide all readers with renewed assurance in the value of artistic undertaking.” — Ploughshares Literary Magazine Blog