poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

October 21, 2011 The Skirball Center for Performing Arts, NYU New York, NY From the Academy Audio Archive

About this poet

Lyn Hejinian was born in the San Francisco Bay Area on May 17, 1941. Poet, essayist, and translator, she is also the author and coauthor of several books of poetry, including The Book of a Thousand Eyes (Omnidawn Publishing, 2012), Saga/Circus (2008), The Fatalist (2003), My Life in the Nineties (Shark, 2003), and A Border Comedy (2001).

Other collections include The Beginner (2000), Happily (2000), Sight (with Leslie Scalapino, 1999), The Cold of Poetry (1994), The Cell (1992), My Life (1980), Writing Is an Aid to Memory (1978), and A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking (1976). She is also the author of The Language of Inquiry (University of California Press, 2000), a collection of essays.

From 1976 to 1984, Hejinian was editor of Tuumba Press, and since 1981 she has been the co-editor of Poetics Journal. She is also the co-director of Atelos, a literary project commissioning and publishing cross-genre work by poets.

About Hejinian's book The Fatalist, the poet Juliana Spahr has written, "Hejinian's work often demonstrates how poetry is a way of thinking, a way of encountering and constructing the world, one endless utopian moment even as it is full of failures."

Her honors include a Writing Fellowship from the California Arts Council, a grant from the Poetry Fund, and a Translation Fellowship (for her Russian translations) from the National Endowment of the Arts. She received the 2000 Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for distinguished poetic achievement. In 2006 she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She lives in Berkeley, California.


Multimedia

Lyn Hejinian discusses poetry and place at the 2008 Poets Forum.   From the Image Archive

 

The Book of a Thousand Eyes [To achieve reality]

Lyn Hejinian, 1941
To achieve reality (where objects thrive on people's passions), enormous effort
and continuous social interactions are required, and I can't get started
without you. Not here—over there's a better place to begin a funny story.
History with its dead all shot through with regularities in the woods
and following what looks like a cow-path
is part of a creature's sexual magic. Its recorded words
now are just a small memento meant to trigger memories
which will give us energy when the right time comes.
Every afternoon high in a tree
the forest vagabond naps while time hangs
like a swarm of midges, trembling on. It might be female
but it has a phallus's tendency to jump up. How lonely it is
to think that I can only think what I think even while he is thinking—our
          thinking
just our respective working body's hum. And while the warlords of Mycenae
          were storming
Troy the foundations of their own societies were crumbling, too.

From The Book of a Thousand Eyes by Lyn Hejinian, published by Omnidawn. Copyright © 2012 by Lyn Hejinian. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

From The Book of a Thousand Eyes by Lyn Hejinian, published by Omnidawn. Copyright © 2012 by Lyn Hejinian. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Lyn Hejinian

Lyn Hejinian

Lyn Hejinian was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1941.

by this poet

poem
I love says the acrobat
To read rarely passing
Even torn scraps on the street without stopping
To see what they have 
To say I'm late
Or your car is 
Blocking my driveway
If you don't move it
NOW I'll call
And have it towed, Jim
I'm sorry, I didn't mean what I said, I just thought
I did, we don't have, I need to
poem
A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding
The gap left by things which have already happened
Leaving nothing in their place, may have nothing to do
But that. Dreams are like ghosts achieving ghosts' perennial goal
Of revoking the sensation of repose. It's terrible
To think we write these things
poem
The manner in which we are present at this time to and fro
    appears, we come to point of view before us
The matter is here
Can we share its kind of existence?
"I" moving about unrolled barking at blue clouds
    devoted—to each other? to hasten to the point?
    to evade anxiety? to picture?
Having awkward