Some Notes on Hank Lazer’s Note

Days, Lavender Ink, 2002.

In Days, Hank Lazer’s latest collection of poetry, one encounters a successful labor of love, a day journal in bass syncopation and off-rhyme—such musicality!  Then, sparingly employed in a “laboratory space for experimentation with the resources and possibilities of the short line and for new modes of lyricism”, graceful Mobius strips of words glide across pages, endlessly strung together and moved along through a calendar of sound, breath, and silence.  The influence of “source-elements” in this text: Monk and Stein, Zukofsky and Oppen, Creeley, Coltrane, Miles, and Dickinson among other countless cited or unannounced amalgam, roam this space, having been sifted through the poet’s imagination and memory, now accompanying his original mind. 

The core as in corazon of this enjoyable book is not without sentiment, yet it circumvents the sentimental by transfusing emotion with experiment, and vice versa.  In this series of poems Lazer has found himself without regret, “…a way away from some of the implicit do’s and don’t’s of avant garde praxis” hoping “…the tutelage of Thelonius Monk…kept the writing “wrong” enough…”—and the writing is wonderfully wrong enough.  Moving the reader through alternating melodic and disjunctive ‘notes’ without ‘responsible’ stylistic weight, the reader follows willingly, even slightly suspended as one might experience “A Love Supreme”, to another day and the next variation.


slow to slogan

voracious to

veracity amen

to mendacity

flesh to pleasure

legs to legendary

costly to apostle

mesh to measure

& i wake up

next to you

Throughout Days Lazer candidly plays with his capacity for observation and affection: of and for language, rhythm, and specificity: the word, its syllables:  138  “fabric echoes fabri // cation you’re making // that up &…//.”  Equally, amusement and gratitude embrace unpredictable turns through the ambitious/ ambiguous quotidian ‘day’: the familiarity of loved ones and objects, a concurrence of nature and ideas, passion for vernacular and humor.  138 (cont.) “country boy eddie// says     I never et// y mology I didn’t// like     the local// not dirt but// deep down in the// vowels of the earth”   74  “I sing the body// eclectic uh defective// icing the bawdy//…”  These miniature, midstream reflections entered in a humble diary, not “breathy epiphanies”—too knowledgeable and modest for that, Days is not actively seeking answers; yet in its constant inquiry preemptively rejoices in, receives, then offers its generous rewards.  As many of these rewards seem to come about through chance, this willingness to explore in Days calls to mind Norman Fischer’s “doubt and accident…at the heart of what art has always been”, as well as parallels to Fischer’s Success : the journal as ontological query, art as the “undoing of everything”, the layers of ‘chance’ in Lazer’s words, and their oxymoronically accurate placement.


everyday is doubt

here pictured

as you will

red glads bend

the stalk stutter

& sudden stud

your talk re

deploy fan out

men & comb

the gully & the ridge

The book itself is a lovely entity.  The 232 poems are encased within a cover of black and a-dash-of-red-strokes (tadpoles?) on a glossy white background (untitled painting by poet and painter Che Qianz, ink on paper, 1993).  They are then embedded between scarlet front and back inside pages which open to the white and black of the printed page; visually and tactilely pleasing, announcing the experience of the senses to come.  The design of the poems of mostly neat short ten line blocks emphasizes a Haiku-like brevity of the ‘extended’ moment—the day, while select words resonate in a palimpsest of possible readings.  This is all enhanced/negated through mischievously adroit puns and alliteration, penciled in numbers and marginalia, corrections and enjambment.  With great skill, Lazer moves the reader without manipulation, while challenging and amusing her/him sufficiently toward the next day’s installment in this deeply felt and intelligent foray into the ordinary.  The poems in Days are not definitive; they easily accommodate improvisation and ir/reverence, never belying an Eastern capacity for clarity and inconclusive wonder. 


his mind I

feel most

akin to mine

‘The virtue of the mind//                      Oppen/CP p.87

“Guest Room”

Is that emotion//

Which causes

To see.’    love

i say felt intensely

as premise of


sudden clarification                             

— Alicia Askenase, July 2002

*Note: The italicized text above represents Lazer’s hand-written notes that appear within and alongside the poem in Days.