The hand-made chapbook is supposed to give us privileged access—not unmediated (we’re not that naive), but privileged—to those distinctive processes we suppose “take place” when a poem comes into being. Especially as compared to mass-produced commodities like the major anthologies, they feel handheld, unplugged, analog. Hank Lazer’s three hand-written notebook poems are a good place to start in thinking about the way poems get mediated on any page. (And indeed, they are all meditations on that kind of mediation.) Each framing (and framed by) a quotation from Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s Phenomenology of Perception (trans. Donald Landes), the poems foreground a variety of challenges to transparency: first, there’s the opacity of Merleau-Ponty’s prose; then there’s the elliptical complexity of Hank’s language in response to Merleau-Ponty; and there’s the additional challenge of the hand-written language that is deployed in ways that subvert conventional left-to-right reading. Finally, there’s a multiple resistance in the digital representations as we crank our heads around trying to get it all in. (Take my advice: download these jpegs and open them in a program that allows you to rotate the texts—or, if you’re strong enough, you could simply pick up your computer and rotate it to read them. JM)
Hank Lazer has published seventeen books of poetry, including Portions (Lavender Ink, 2009), The New Spirit (Singing Horse, 2005), Elegies & Vacations (Salt, 2004), and Days (Lavender Ink, 2002). In 2008, Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008 was published by Omnidawn. Lazer’s seventeenth book of poetry N18 (complete), a handwritten book, is available from Singing Horse Press: http://singinghorsepress.com/titles/n18/. Pages from the notebooks have been performed with soprano saxophonist Andrew Raffo Dewar at the University of Georgia and in Havana, Cuba.
Recent features on the Notebooks appear in Talisman #42 (http://www.talismanmag.net/, including an interview conducted by Marjorie Perloff) and Plume #34 (http://plumepoetry.com/2014/04/featured-selection-5/, including a conversation with Glenn Mott, and an mp3 of a performance with Andrew Raffo Dewar).
Audio and video recordings of Lazer’s poetry and an interview for Art International Radio can be found at Lazer’s PennSound website: http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Lazer.html.