Thursday, May 27, 2010

Aimless Reading: The H's, Part 14.1 (Lyn Hejinian)

Hejinian, Lyn
The Language of Inquiry


Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books.

I've met Lyn Hejinian twice. She visited Charles Bernstein's seminar when I was in graduate school. I can't remember if she gave a formal talk. My memory is of an informal exchange with students. She read her poems in the afternoon, and Susan Howe held a reception for her that evening at her home on Oakland Place. I remember Lyn sat before the wide sill of a large window in the dining room, a little half circle of people gathered around her, chatting and asking questions. She definitely had the poetry rock star buzz going on.

She came to Buffalo again a few years ago under the auspices of Steve McCaffery and the Poetics program. I helped Steve set up a reading for her at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery and I think I introduced her -- I may just have set it up, but I am pretty sure I wrote and introduction -- let's see -- ah! I just found a document called "hejinianintro", which I am guessing is what it says it is. Yes, I introduced her.

Steve invited me to what I thought was going to be a big dinner with students and so forth at a little French restaurant behind Kleinhans Music Hall. It turned out to be an intimate dinner for three. I can't remember what I ate. I remember Steve knew the waiter by his first name.

Lyn struck me as a persistently curious person -- she asked a lot of questions, mostly about poetry. What are you writing? What are your peers writing? What is going on in poetry these days? What do you think is the most interesting thing going on in poetry right now? She seemed to want to have her finger on the pulse of everything new and interesting in the poetry world. I found I liked her quite a lot.

I remember we also talked about Andrei Tarkovsky and that after she'd left I sent her my first book of poems, which contains a short series of poems called, "Tarkovsky Suite."

from The Language of Inquiry

from The Rejection of Closure

Writing’s initial situation, its point of origin, is often characterized and always complicated by opposing impulses in the writer and by a seeming dilemma that language creates and then cannot resolve. The writer experiences a conflict between a desire to satisfy a demand for boundedness, for containment and coherence, and a simultaneous desire for free, unhampered access to the world prompting a correspondingly open response to it. Curi­ously, the term inclusivity is applicable to both, though the connotative emphasis is different for each. The impulse to boundedness demands circumscription and that in turn requires that a distinction be made between inside and outside, between the relevant and the (for the particular writing at hand) confusing and irrelevant—the meaningless. The desire for unhampered access and response to the world (an encyclopedic impulse), on the other hand, hates to leave anything out. The essential question here concerns the writer’s subject position.

The impasse, meanwhile, that is both language’s creative condition and its problem can be described as the disjuncture between words and meaning, but at a particularly material level, one at which the writer is faced with the necessity of making formal decisions—devising an appropriate structure for the work, anticipating the constraints it will put into play, etc.—in the context of the ever-regenerating plenitude of language’s resources, in their infinite combinations. Writing’s forms are not merely shapes but forces; formal questions are about dynamics—they ask how, where, and why the writing moves, what are the types, directions, number, and velocities of a work’s motion. The material aporia objectifies the poem in the context of ideas and of lan guage itself.

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