Hank Lazer

On line breaks (SOURCE):

Initially, the form of Portions, due to the very short lines, made me think more fully about the multiple possibilities of line breaks – the way the line break offers both a discontinuity and a space through which one reads to connect. In some ways, the condensed form allowed me to try some of the quick compression, turns, and fusion that I found in my readings of Celan. While some of the lyrical pleasures of Days can also be found in Portions, the latter has less of an insistence upon melopoeia or traditional modes of lyricism.

On “Musicality In Poetry“:

My first suggestion is that “meaning” and “musicality” are inseparable, coincidental, and simultaneous. It’s not that a poet “has something in mind” and “tries to express it.” The poem is the thinking, is an embodiment, a highly specific incarnation and manifestation of an interval of consciousness. While I don’t mean to suggest that poems do not have meaning, I do think that viewing a poem as an object to be re-stated in terms of a theme or an underlying idea amounts to a kind of linguistic strip-mining – a process that extracts an element at the expense of the overall verbal terrain.

Poems don’t have to be about something; the poem itself is a primary thing in the world. I think of poems – as in the best of Creeley – as intervals of consciousness. And the musicality of the poem – including shifts in direction, shifts in tempo, playing off of similar sounds – is intrinsic to the embodiment of a particular interval of consciousness.

W.S. Graham

I wasn’t so familiar with W.S. Graham’s work when I first came across “The Uses of Difficulty, Written in the Margins of W.S. Graham,” though I was already, given certain interests, looking forward to reading the essay. Three lines into the excerpt from “Approaches to How They Behave” however, I found myself entranced by the themes of presence (speaking) and absence (death) as well as Graham’s lineation and his use of “exact” as both adjective and verb (the latter being a device I’ve been using more and more in my own work lately).

So I went on Google, and one of the first items to turn up was this old blog entry discussing the translation issues raised in the Paul Celan article from which I just quoted. It’s a discussion that takes its its blog entry title and much of its content from Graham. Oh, apophenia, I love you.* (And from there I came across this wonderful bit from George Steiner: “Uncertainty of meaning is incipient poetry.”)

“Approaches to How They Behave” is apparently a long poem, so only excerpts are available online. This one has six sections, and the same blogger has put up Graham’s “Penzance/London” and “The Gobbled Child.” Poetry Nation has “What Is The Language Using Us For?” in what seems to be its entirety, as well as “Imagine a forest” and “The Secret Name.” I need more time with these works–the essay on difficulty suggests an hour–but from what I’ve read so far, I feel a certain affinity for the shapes in Graham’s work, the shapes of his thought and the shapes of his verse.

More to follow.