Sunday, 20 September 2015

Lyn Hejinian


One of my favourite poets included in Hoover’s anthology is probably Lyn Hejinian. As an important member of the Language writing movement, her work has been pushing the boundaries of experimental and avant-garde poetics since the 1970s.

Texts like her famous 1987 autobiographical long poem “My Life” don’t just question the authority of the writer over the reader in their mosaic of discontinuous sentences, they also draw attention to the complexity and constructedness of narration.

The poet Juliana Spahr commented on Hejinian’s work:

“[It] 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.”

This is also reflected in the way “My Life” is constantly writing and rewriting itself, repeating sections and beginning again. In this way the text suggests the process of remembering as it reassembles pieces of the poet’s biography.

From 1976 to 1984, Hejinian was editor of Tuumba Press, and since 1981 she has been the co-editor of Poetics Journal. She has published over a dozen books of poetry and numerous books of essays as well as two volumes of translations from the Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko

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.


Links:
http://epc.buffalo.edu/authors/hejinian/
http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/lyn-hejinian
http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poet/lyn-hejinian

My below poem took its inspiration from Hejinian’s “My Life”. But instead of reassembling a life in memories I decided to reassemble an old Greek fable, focussing on its political message and the ripples these kind of ideologies might have in the lives of people today.


~ - ~

Fable

Everyday corn and grain --- The children played hide and seek among the billowing white sheets on the drying green in the back of the houses. Her eyes dancing with laughter again for the first time. “What else can you do?” he smiled wearily. She gave out a sigh of relief when she saw that the brown envelope was just about voter registration and quickly shoved it into the drawer with the takeaway menus and the spare keys. They started calling it “de-inflation” to take away the dread. It was the drawing of a wonky terraced house with a swing in the garden and a smiling sun. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. The refrigerator’s humming was louder on the nights he wasn’t home.

To the nest --- The queues were worse now than a couple of weeks ago but she had stopped paying attention. They tried to find another “p” in the bowl of soup to spell out “happiness” on a spoon and feed it to the baby. "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." He came over with a bottle of red but she was too ill to drink any. Rainwater had gathered in a welly one of them must have left out last time they went for a walk. It was hard to keep up with all these changes. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity. She wanted so badly to tell him “you know nothing of our lives” but she didn’t want to embarrass the children and the parking ticket was running out.

In that way? --- In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. The Beatles “Lady Madonna” on full blast in the bathroom. They had moved the worn part of the carpet under the dining table just in time before the doorbell rang. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" The handle of the coffee cup had broken off a long time ago. She had circled the day in the calendar. An overflowing ashtray in the morning sun. But the ant went on its way and continued its toil.

The days of necessity --- "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. “You have to understand that these kind of jobs are extremely competitive”, his voice was matter-of-factly. There was a hole in the left pocket of her rain coat. "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." Someone on telly was talking about social justice but she turned away when the phone began to ring. The brochure advertised a bright and promising future. In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content.

Hopping about, chirping --- When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. It felt good to open the windows on this first warm day of spring. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. They picked flowers in the long grass behind the old factory. In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. “You’re not watching any telly, are you?” she coaxed. But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

And continued its toil --- An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." She waited until no one was watching. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity. But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. She could not stand the way they had started to look at her.

An ant passed by --- "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." On that night they held each other tight. "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.

Then the grasshopper knew --- In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.




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