Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1975
Dedication: For Richard Harteis

Honestly, I have felt in few poems such inspiration as I took from yours. The book as a whole was exciting to me....Hazard has become...as visceral and alive as the people in good novels....the accumulated weight of a rich and complicated man which grew in the book impressed me most of all.

    -Letter from John Irving to William Meredith, September 12, 1975

Resemblances between the life and character of Hazard and those of the author are not disclaimed but are much fewer than the author would like.

    -William Meredith

Reading your poems is like talking to you-but more freely than I shall ever dare to do. It is a poetry which satisfies me.

    -Letter from Josephine Jacobson to William Meredith, Febrary 7, 1978


Harnessed and zipped on a bright
October day, having lied to his wife,
Hazard jumps, and the silk spanks
open, and he is falling safely.

This is what for two years now
he has been painting, in a child's palette
-not the plotted landscape that holds dim
below him, but the human figure dangling safe,
guyed to something silky, hanging here,
full of half-remembered instruction
but falling, and safe.

They must have caught and spanked him
like this when he first fell.
He passes it along now, Hazard's vision.
He is in charge of morale in a morbid time.
He calls out to the sky, his voice
the voice of an animal that makes not words
but a happy incorrigible noise, not
of this time. The colors of autumn
are becoming audible through the haze.

It does not matter that the great masters
could see this without flight, while
dull Hazard must be taken up again and dropped.
He sees it. Then he sees himself
as he would look from the canopy above him,
closing safely (if he can remember
what to do) on the Bruegel landscape.
Inside the bug-like goggles, his eyes water.

Reprinted from Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems by William Meredith, published by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press in 1997. Copyright © 1997 by William Meredith. All rights reserved; used by permission of Northwestern University Press and the author.

Other poems from Hazard, the Painter...

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