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Hank Lazer puts poems into motion at Catherine J. Smith Gallery

Experimental+poet+Hank+Lazer%E2%80%99s+word+event+on+Friday+encouraged+readers+to+combine+written+word+with+action+at+the+Smith+Gallery.
Christopher Deverell
Experimental poet Hank Lazer’s word event on Friday encouraged readers to combine written word with action at the Smith Gallery.

As part of Hughlene Bostian Visiting Writers Series, a poet took an unconventional approach to a reading on Friday by performing the work using both words and motion in the Catherine J. Smith Gallery of the Schaefer Center.

Hank Lazer is known for his experimental poetry and was nominated for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. In addition to the poetry reading, which 15 Appalachian State University students assisted in, Lazer gave a lecture about his work and craft Thursday.

Students were handed scripts at the beginning of the event and told that they had the freedom to contribute to how they saw the event.

“First confession, I have no idea what I am doing,” Lazer said at the beginning of the reading.

A unique aspect of Lazer’s work as an experimental poet is how he writes his poetry, scattering it all over the page in shapes and patterns instead of organizing it in a certain design. Students were invited to read with Lazer at the event and recreate his poems in person.

Experimental poet Hank Lazer’s word event on Friday encouraged readers to combine written word with action at the Smith Gallery.
Experimental poet Hank Lazer’s word event on Friday encouraged readers to combine written word with action at the Smith Gallery. Photo credit: Chris Deverell.

 

Appalachian State University graduate and reading attendee Connor Childers said Lazer’s poetry presents a mastery in the art of attention and precision.

“Each of his hand-written shape poems are one-off improvisations composed of thought and sound,” Childers said. “The act of writing each page becomes a kind of playground for language in real-time. His writing is rich in philosophical complexity and emotional depth while sticking to simple language.”

The word event was invented by Lazer after he became “unsatisfied with poetry readings,” and after poetry readings had become absurd to him, the poet said.

Reading participant at Appalachian graduate Sam Lineberger first learned of Lazer in a course taught during summer sessions.

“Poetry events are usually constrained to a strict listener and reader relationship, but the word ‘event’ opens the words in more directions as well as providing a launching point and creative plateau from which even more collaborations and forms could possibly emerge,” Lineberger said.

The reading was hosted by professors Nathan Hauke and Kirsten Jorgenson who curated the Visiting Writers Series for the 2014-15 academic year.

The next Visiting Writer’s event will be a reading by Roxane Gay April 16.

Story: Casey Suglia, Intern A&E Reporter

 

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