tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > selections from The Unfollowed

selections from The Unfollowed by Lyn Hejinian
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This little bk has a translucent outer cover w/ minimal letterpress graphics on it. This allows the title & credits to be semi-seen thru it. My dear friend Amy Catanzano was partially hosting Hejinian when she was visiting Naropa & Amy was quite enthusiastic. She told me that Hejinian's poetics were influential for her. I've read snippets here & there of Hejinian's writing over the yrs & I've admired her Tuumba Press but've never read an entire bk by Hejinian until this (selections only though it is). Amy told me that her "favorite line" in this is: "Girls, my anchor has run out of print - what is my scientific name?" & that becomes a sort of clue for me.

Sometimes it seems that poetry is written as a sequence of disparate lines & that each of those lines is designed to be maximally evocative w/in itself AND in relation to surrounding lines. That seems to be the case here. Take, eg, this simple excerpt:

"O yes
I've been tied to a rail
Knock, knock
The smallest unit of time is "from here to that star"-it's a light trip"

"O yes" cd be an emphatic answer to a question, it cd be an exclamation during pleasure, it cd be the beginning to "I've been tied to a rail" wch cd be a reference to "The Perils of Pauline", it cd be a metaphor. "Knock, knock" might be most commonly associated w/ the beginning of a "Knock, knock" joke. This might've derailed the preceding 2 lines. "The smallest unit of time is "from here to that star"-it's a light trip" seems to derail the preceding, it seems to establish a scale: if that's the smallest unit then we must be on a scale much larger than the day-to-day human one - a scale larger than a knock-knock joke. I imagine starting w/ an intimate moment in the present & going back in time to silent movie serials & then going to an amorphously timed evocation of childhood & then getting into stellar scale. This, for me, is a sort of line-by-line refocus of conceptual 'lenses'. This may have nothing to do w/ Hejinian's purpose.

"Girls, my anchor has run out of print - what is my scientific name?" is like a riddle aimed at girls. What type of anchor runs out of print? To quote Wikipedia: "An anchor is a device, normally made of metal, that is used to connect a vessel to the bed of a body of water to prevent the vessel from drifting due to wind or current." So, let's say that this particular "anchor" is a metaphorical one: an anchor in the sense of 'something that keeps the 'authorial voice's personage'' 'afloat': ie: keeps the author from losing their stability, their self-control. For a writer, the "anchor" might be a text, a text can "run out of print": it can end. What's a writer w/ a bk that's ended? Do they have writer's block? What's their scientific name? A penumbra? A pen in the shadows? A pun in the shade? Upon the shade?

I'm only half-serious here. Given that Hejinian is associated w/ Language Poetry, I'm taking the readerly liberty of reading the links between her lines. What I'm really curious about is what other people find here. I read on Hejinian's Wikipedia bio that "She has received grants and awards from the California Arts Council, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Fund, the National Endowment of the Arts, [& the] Guggenheim Foundation." That means that there're alotof people who take her work very seriously indeed & think that she deserves to be substantially financially supported for it. Might I suggest that this is b/c she's an academic? If she were a non-academic, a person who hasn't pd into the hierarchy, wd she be so acclaimed? I think not! Some might say that it's precisely b/c she's jumped thru the academic hoops & come out a ringmaster that that's 'why' her poetry has the 'quality' it has. I beg to disagree.

I'd like to see a collection of poetry by acclaimed poets done in a poorly photocopied form w/ all the poets writing under different names. Then I'd like to see their author bios listing their professions along the lines of: "Judith Hinkle is a mother of 4 who works at Wallmart to make ends meet. In her spare time she writes poetry." Then I'd like to see that sent out to Rain Taxi for review. Wd they review it at all? I think not. It wdn't reek of enuf money & 'class' to be 'taken seriously'. Maybe a scholar wd recognize it as a hoax. Maybe a scholar wd recognize Hejinian's writing. I wonder though.. "From there I push dire to pepper".

Such class musings aside, this poetry is just dandy. However,

"It will take two days of steady rowing to take us where we're going

She says nothing, sees nothing, pinching folds into the blanket, pleating the sheet, hour by hour

Creation myths are always tales of cruelty, in which forms are forced out of ambiguous material's amorphous lumps, chunks, splotches, blobs"

I prefer to myth a new creation w/o cruelty. I hope to meet you too someday.

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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March 4, 2011 – Finished Reading
March 5, 2011 – Shelved

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