Hank Lazer: An Eye for Miracles
Donald Revell

In a Journal entry dated August 24, 1852, Henry David Thoreau averred:


I look out at my eyes, I come to my window, & I feel & breathe the fresh air. It is a fact equally glorious with the most inward experience. Why have we ever slandered the outward? The perception of surfaces will always have the effect of miracle to a sane sense.  


    In his most recent work, Hank Lazer offers lucent testimony to the sanity of human senses, to their righteous affinity for the sudden and the continuous, even in the face of death. In his twelfth and most recent collection of poetry, The New Spirit (Singing Horse Press, 1995) he
begins a long ceremony of mourning and of waking with a plain noticing that is immediately also a wisdom:


          any one        could be the one        the sudden

          stun        you'd waited for


    The senses do not shrink from randomness, not even the randomness of general death and sudden loss. They are seized and go forward.
The seizure, however painful, is irresistible (nothing is more unresisting than the opened eye), and forward, in Lazer's vision, is the continuing direction of Paradise.


when this place   like today     a sudden paradise


would choose to be elsewhere

      she pauses    & sits

on a bench      relieved  of any obligation to be




    The rigor of sense is also the absence of irony. The eye can vouch for beauty forthrightly, unabashedly, even ecstatically, as its seeing is no reference to itself but, rather, an endlessly outward concern. Elsewhere in his Journal for 1852, Thoreau declared that "The perception of beauty is a moral test."  No poet presently writing in America has a better sense than Lazer of just what such declaration means. Beauty is a test of outwardness; one's portion is directly proportional to his  faithful transgressions of the thresholds of himself, that is, of his senses.  The ceremony that is The New Spirit thus becomes a most joyful series of speculations, griefs and rewards. It is a prayer afoot.  It becomes a careless purity finding purity everywhere it turns. The close of its closing poem, "Leaning Toward," makes of mortality itself a casual and then a carefree observation--


           that consciousness migrates


                         & is only for now incarnate this way



                                     in this





                                        & instrument



                     sounding it out       as you go


    Transmigration is a matter of evidence. As it turns out, eternity itself is an activity of the facts, an improvisation going on right now for those with sense,  and with senses enough, to go along. 


    Words are among the facts, an improvised activity too. In his newest poems, as featured in this issue of  Golden Handcuffs Review, Hank Lazer delights to see his own words transgress the thresholds of themselves. In "Turning," for example, the occasion of the poem proves to be a series of effortless transgressions. The dawn's light passes through the eye and into the words awaking. (Lazer's poetry shows a great esteem for Ronald Johnson and shares in Ark's optic mischief.)  The form of this waking is what utters and inscribes the line. Famously, Robert Creeley avowed that "form is what happens." In "Turning" it happens word by word along the trajectory of morning light; and, beautifully, the sum of the words rises to the level of the symphonic,  i.e.  to the lambent Fact of World.


    Just because the turnings that Lazer loves best are almost always effortless, his tone is naturally and sincerely grateful. As in "Dissolves," the singing is instantaneous and instantly filled. There is no interval between an eye's opening and its being filled with light; exactly so, there is no interval in "Dissolves" between first utterance and song, first knowledge and "full gratitude." "Immediate gathering information" describes a a constant and unprefixed state of being in which revelation is the steady course of each and every fact. No wonder gratitude resounds so easily in such a poem. "Dissolves" is in itself a state of blessedness.


    Lazer's task then? To say, to see just how such blessedness goes on.  In "Sustain" this task is not only accomplished but inclined towards the limitless futurity of "every day."  Here is a poem in which the note of "early/morning" is held, is sustained beyond measure.  Here is a poem in which the line breaks step off into wilderness entirely new and yet entirely well. The sun just keeps on rising. "The sun is but a morning star."
And that, Hank Lazer knows, is how such blessedness goes on.