Welcome to The Beat, Knox County Public Library’s poetry podcast. Today, we’ll hear a suite of poems by Lyn Hejinian. Her first several books were published in the 1970’s, and her work as a poet and editor helped to breathe new life into 20th century literature. She was a founding figure in the movement called Language poetry, which is often thought of as experimental or avant garde. Hejinian was, and is, an influential force in American poetry and poetics. Here’s Lyn Hejinian.Lyn Hejinian:
and I myself can read
to see if what I’ve written is right.
Sleep offers an excuse
But who else would dream
the world one thinks?
It’s only there
the world repeats.
Many days are often mine.
Do I feel that
It’s seldom said.
Who can be trusted?
but cannot recognize.
Perhaps my dear family can profit from my story
As it continues two pickpockets are denying a robust policeman’s suggestion
that they are ‘suspiciously encumbered’
If encumbered, they insist, they would resemble kids with a lot to say
They would resemble unwanted sympathy
They would not be like holes in a hallway
O no, here comes
O my god
Off we go
There in your hand is an emerald hoe. You have gone to the basement, you have come to the window, you have forgotten our names. Everyone but you is seasick, and you aren’t because you don’t lock your knees as you stand on the deck, you ride the waves, you flow.
There in your hand is a mixing stick, and you live in the land of our mothers and incarnations, and you see things turning: flowers into fate, pebbles into water, ripe berries into people who begin immediately to hunt and copulate and prepare food and quarrel.
There in your hand is a viola bow. You are more than seventy years old now, or maybe half of that, or perhaps a thousand. You are a stranger now, or someone who is yet to appear but of whom we have a premonition, and the children know your name.
There in your hand is a mirror reflecting a cloud. You are moving slowly and also quickly, you live in a barn with legs. You refuse to be bossed around and you spill the ink, word goes out to pigeons or maybe they are penguins who are carrying the message.
There in your hand is a message we can’t read. You are as quiet and complete as an egg and when it breaks there in your hand is a tile and on it are our names.Alan May:
That was Lyn Hejinian reading four untitled works. She was kind enough to record these poems for us at her home in Berkeley, California. Lyn Hejinian is a poet, translator, editor, and scholar. She’s taught at various universities and for many years at the University of California, Berkeley. In 2006 she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, where she served until 2012. She has won the Guggenheim Fellowship and a Translation Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for work in the Russian language. She’s the author of over twenty-five volumes of poetry and critical prose. Fall Creek, Hejinian’s latest long poem, is forthcoming from Litmus Press, and a book of critical essays titled Allegorical Moments: Call to the Everyday will be published by Wesleyan University Press later this year. The Proposition, an edition of Hejinian’s uncollected early work, is forthcoming from the University of Edinburgh Press in the spring of 2024. You can find books by Lyn Hejinian in our online catalog. Also look for links in the show notes. Please join us next time for The Beat.