reviewed by Laura Eve Engel

Since long before “disruption” became the buzzword du jour of the business world, Lyn Hejinian has been an active practitioner of a disruptive poetics, challenging and destabilizing the very corporate and political structures that now make claims about their own power to disrupt. Hejinian’s most recent collection, composed of three long poems generated over the past decade, is both the product of a contemporary moment marked by national unrest and the global rise of fascism—“One day to wake to a nation’s national nationalism indebted / to orange lighting.” Here is a powerful, timeless entry into a lifelong body of work that sees within the building blocks of language a genuine potential for resistance: “We live in toppled times under a feat of tyranny; let’s not / fake getting lost, let’s do it, let’s not do it intermittently, let’s be / lost, disoriented and never to be bound so all can hear / the hiss of adverbs we shoot into tyrants’ eyes.” Though disruption and disorientation are indeed central to Hejinian’s project, entropy is neither the goal nor the result; rather, through rigorous linguistic recontextualization and syntactic fluidity, a newly authentic and even spontaneous expression emerges, one in which “[e]very sentence records a stretch of becoming invented as it goes.” This necessary volume identifies and fulfils our continuous and once again emergent need for radical destabilization in poetry and in politics, all the while insisting, with tenderness and optimism, that the act of reordering our world by reordering our language is what makes us—and keeps us—alive: “To revolt is to inquire, to continue as undead.”

This review originally appeared in in the Books Noted section of American Poets, Spring-Summer 2019.