He Claims He is the Direct Heir

By Bert Almon

A review of He Claims He Is The Direct Heir by Lazar Sarna

Published on March 1, 2006

He Claims He Is The Direct Heir
Lazar Sarna

The Porcupine's Quill

Poet and novelist Lazar Sarna is competent enough, but there is no thematic or emotional urgency to his latest book and the style is very plain, except for an inclination to parallelism. The tone is generally satirical, even whimsical. Co-editor of an anthology of Canadian Yiddish writing, he frequently catches Yiddish idioms in his work, relying on subtleties of tone and rhythm rather than vocabulary. “Herzl’s Beard,” his poem for Theodor Herzl, the pioneering Zionist leader, is a complex historical portrait, respectful but not pious. Humorist he may be, but Sarna takes a sombre view of history. In “The Mealtime of Gladiators,” he recognizes that civilization rests on barbarism and conveys that through an imaginary meal: first the gladiators can feed, then the cursers and vandals, then the inheritors, and finally the scholars (“because the logic of food is a long test”). In “Doorman to the Stars,” he gets it all exactly right, imagining himself as a doorman who opens the way to the heavens but is worldly enough to want a tip:


I open the door to let you soar ahead
like comets’ wind.
My palm is shaped much like
the holes of heaven, quiet humourless
for quarters and dimes.

The door, what majesty of
grace it has, both in its
coming and prophetic closing.
I am a muscle
of a strong angel’s wing.


Most of Sarna’s poems are humorous and earthbound, but he can soar when he wants to. mRb

Bert Almon lives in Edmonton, Alberta. Retired from teaching, he follows the careers of his former students.



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