Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008

Lyric & Spirit: Selected Essays, 1996-2008

(Omnidawn, 2008)

 

This selected—the first compilation of essays by Hank Lazer following his ground-breaking and much revered two-volume Opposing Poetries—offers twelve years of incisive writing at the intersection of two of the more contentiously debated topics in current letters. Drawing on poetic traditions as seemingly disparate as Language writing and Buddhist poetry, Lazer pursues a way of reading that is rich in the music and spirit of the word, attuning readers to the pleasures and range of possibilities for innovative poetry. In a very accessible writing style, and with flashes of brilliance, Lazer explores and identifies new approaches to the lyric and to the writing of spiritual experience in American poetry of the past one hundred years. In this book of essays, interviews, reflections, and more, Lazer focuses on two topics central to the poetry of our time: the changing nature of beauty in the lyric and the necessity of finding new ways of embodying spirituality. By bringing a wide range of perspectives to his readings—from the jazz of Monk and Coltrane to the philosophy of Heidegger and Derrida—Lazer’s essays inspire readers to enter into a renewed and renewing relationship with poetry.

In these lucid, engaging, and informative essays, Hank Lazer enlists lyric and spirit in a project of radical resistance to the received in pursuit of intensification of the possible. If Lazer calls for beauty, it is an unexpected beauty, earned not given. This is a compelling study of contemporary American poetic practice, with special attention to Armantrout, Creeley, Fischer, Taggart, Mackey, Zukofsky, Jabés, Duncan, and Schwerner, among others, in the context of a critical approach informed by two unlikely soul mates, Theodor Adorno and Thelonious Monk.

Charles Bernstein

 

In Lyric & Spirit Hank Lazer gives us twelve years of the best of his ongoing reading and thinking about contemporary innovative poetries. In discussing with generous appreciation an eclectic and often surprising range of poets (from Zukofsky to Berry, Jabés to Armantrout) he makes the crucial point that the ancient roots of poetry in musics that conveys language’s ultimate, endless, groping for meaning’s elusiveness are as gripping as ever, though in radically new ways, in post-modern poetry. These essays seem to me essential reading for anyone interested in an honest, searching, and thoughtful exploration of where and what poetry is now.

Norman Fischer

 


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