"[Hillman's] work is fierce but loving, risk-taking, and beautiful." —Harvard Review
An iconoclastic ecopoet who has led the way for many young and emerging artists, Brenda Hillman continues to re-cast innovative poetic forms as instruments for tracking human and non-human experiences. At times the poet deploys short dialogues, meditations or trance techniques as means of rendering inner states; other times she uses narrative, documentary or scientific materials to record daily events during a time of pandemic, planetary crisis, political and racial turmoil. Hillman proposes that poetry offers courage even in times of existential peril; her work represents what is most necessary and fresh in American poetry.
During an enchantment in the life
Do you love a living person
absolutely? Tell them now.
In a half-unwieldy life you made, under
the hyaline sky, while the dead
drank from zigzag pools nearby,
if they saved you in your wild incapacities,
in timing of the world's harm
in a little pettiness in your own heart while others took
your madrigals in shreds to a tribunal,
when others said you should feel grateful
to be minimally adequate for the world's
triple exposure or some tired committee...
The ones who love us, how do they
break through our defenses?
We're tired today. Come back later.
Their baffled voices melting our wax walls
with a candle, the ones who understand
what being is—the glowing, the broken,
the wheels, the brave ones—
they have their courage,
you have yours,,,;
when you meet the one you love,
it is so rare. When you meet
the one who loves you, it is extremely rare.
CONTENTS • (dedication) • I. IN LANDSCAPES OF STRESS & BEAUTY • Micro-minutes on Your • Way to work • A Slightly Less Stressful Walk Uphill • Dawn Tercets with Blake & Nuthatch • Right Before Dusk, Some Meadow Fragments • A Goodness That Comes from Nothing • The Highest Part of the Dust • Poem Before the Power Went Out • Poem While the Power Was Out • & after the Power Came Back • [interruption: stichomythia] • People's Emotions in One City Block • After a Pageant, Before a Birth • Poem Describing Time to the Unborn • II. ACTIVISM & POETRY—SOME BRIEF REPORTS • The Times We Find Ourselves In • Activism & Poetry—a Brief Report : :: :: : • In the Gardens of José Marti • Notes outside West County Detention Center • [interruption: stichomythia] • Among Some Anapests at Civic Center • Wiping tear Gas off Young People • Report on Another Encounter in Nature • 6 Views of Moss Dendroalsia Abietinum • [interruption: stichomythia] • The American Burying Beetle • On the Molecules of Certain Ancestors • The Mostly Everything That Everyone Is • 1967 • III. THERE ARE MANY WOMEN TO CHERISH • Winter Daybreak Stanzas for Our Daughters • The Closing of a Midtown Bookstore • A Pattern of Minutes During Illness • For Students, After Reading the Odyssey • The Working Sister of the Muses • Lines for the 19th Amendment Centennial • [interruption stichomythia] • In Some Senses of the Word • Taking the Sunflower to the Mountains • After the Fires,,, In the Mountains,,, • S/kin • History of Punctuation on the Face • [collage essay] • IV. FOR WRITERS WHO ARE HAVING TROUBLE • A Feeling Right Before the Feeling • On Days When We Both Travel • [interruption stichomythia] • Concerning the Meaning Molecule in Poetry • The Child, Finishing Fourth Grade Online, • The Scattering of the Lyric I • The Photograph of the Black Hole • Her Map Might Change Its Arrows • [interruption stichomythia] • Dear emerging, pre-emerging & post-emerging poets, • For One Who Paused Her Writing • To the Poets of Myanmar • ::[an artist's sound, between the Farallones]:: • [interruption stichomythia] • Winter Song for One Who Suffers • V. THE SICKNESS & THE WORLD SOUL • ::: [a ragged white moth passes by]::: • [at a hospital: in the east] • [little breath circles all across town] • [: : : at equinox, same 12 squares, window : : :] • [stayed busy inside moments of not] • :::[the invisible is full for you]::: • [in the split gardens irrational hope] • [poem on a birthday::: in shelter] • [trance poem with the gray stone] • [asyndeton of adenine cytosine guanine uracil] • :::[when spring dusk fills the garden]::: • :::[lines on Easter during the sickness]::: • [for the workers suddenly less employed] • ::[untitled]:: • :::[to the voice of the age]::: • ::[in a place with no light]:: • [ ________________ ] • :::[smooth black stone has seen everything]::: • [chiasmus with all the other animals] • :::[the voice of the age chorus]::: • [pinched nerve in my white arm] • [the hive interrogates the helpless hum] • [the fourth part of a triptych ] • [untitled tableau] • VI IN A FEW MINUTES BEFORE LATER • Escape & Energy • The ground of being is changed • Escape & Logic • Punctuation at the end of time • Escape & Song • Love & Myth • The Themes in American Literature • During an enchantment in the life • Escape & Speculation • Doubt & Love • Escape & Exeunt • Epithalamium for Anxiety & Energy
"[Hillman's] most recent books are rooted in broad social and ecological interests: 'passion' is a better term. She has invented a kind of dialogue with the earth; she writes with an intimacy and directness few equal and a magnificence of conception almost no one aspires to."~Citation from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Morton Dauwen Zabel Award 2020)
"She is lightning 'the sea shines purple in.' With a seed bomb of words, she takes on the system... without once turning her back on lyrical splendor."~C.D. Wright, "The Book That Brenda Wrote" [from The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All]
"Thematically significant here, time dominates, as does the looming, viscerally rendered, and gorgeously obdurate natural world, both stretching out"
"Hillman's work will find a ready audience in poets of her own generation, as well as those younger poets following in her footsteps, in whose hands the category of 'ecopoetry' has exploded, sporelike, into countless unnamed species."