New Page 1

 
..:: CONTENTS ::..
   Volume I, Issue II

..:: POETRY ::..


..:: PROSE ::..
..:: ART ::..
..:: REVIEWS ::..
..:: ETC ::..
   Contributor's Notes

..:: ARCHIVES ::..
   Volume I, Issue I
   Volume I, Issue II
   Volume II, Issue I
   Volume II, Issue II
   Volume III, Issue I
   Volume III, Issue II
   Volume IV, Issue I
 

Lyn Hejinian, The Fatalist 
(Richmond, CA: Omnidawn Publishing, 2003).

J. Mara Goldberg

   

    Throughout Lyn Hejinian's latest long poem, The Fatalist, language becomes the conduit for discovery of a presence--differentiated yet ever evolving--in a plurality of similar presences (similar, that is, in that they are different: "experience / doesn't reveal one's own reality but the reality of things / alien to one" (Fatalist 33)). Of little surprise, given that language is the medium (i.e., the message), but here are also the elastic filaments of process & theory. Certainly, Hejinian's pseudo-pedagogical-cum-philo(soph/log)ical text makes apparent its intent through pure linguistic permutation, play of association & definition, & even didactic revelation. 
    
"A central activity of poetic language is formalů.While failing in the attempt to match the world, we discover structure, distinction, the integrity and separateness of things" (Rejection 658). This formal centrism drives Hejinian to open her text to the dynamic elements of change on the level of language, permitting this "structure, distinction" to be permeated & formed by experience, by action. "That's what fate is: whatever's happened / --time regained" (Fatalist 83). Hejinian's process locates a subject in space & time, aiming its "amiable love-arrows" at the thing; then relies on the associational, on the referential, to render the poem open from there. 
    This central action of lobbing referential arrows at the subject underhand resembles those aphoristic instruments of approximation, "horseshoes & hand grenades," that affect their use broadly & without dead-on precision. In fact, the hand grenade allusion fits quite well here: an instrument that resembles a closed container, lands momently in a delineated time & space, that suddenly, violently abolishes its walls, blooming into an amorphous, volatile expanse that changes the landscape around it. 
    Indeed, the writing method itself acted as grenade, too; this lobbed into a critical mass of emails and correspondence that became the source material for The Fatalist. The explosion is a montage Hejinian reconstructs and explodes again and more-or-less creates an indistinguishable potpourri of reconstructed literary/email shrapnel that readers collect for the purpose of their own referential meaning-making. In this way, Hejinian continues countering what's become traditional to build a poem with which content becomes an extension of form. Or to play off a Brechtian quip, form is the grenade with which content is shaped. And yet shape and form suggests something with boundaries, something that is enclosed, is with closure. These may not be appropriate word choices, perhaps misleading given Hejinian's intent rejects closure, rejects insistence on a singular reality. 
    Instead, Hejinian revels in the kinesthetic of difference, of change (shaping). "Language itself is never in a state of rest" (Rejection 654). But this implied (& enacted) movement must not remain simply intent: "Poetry / can't be about flight--that would make flight a perching / instead of a flight" (Fatalist 33). For this reason, the process of The Fatalist becomes threadbare, clearly evident in the functions of the language; this evident process, however, can become quite heavy-handed & self-referential. A gray gravy drizzle of theory worn on the sleeve. Perhaps in this way, the poem never escapes being about reality, philology, &c, if only because it continually returns to these topics with a self-awareness that it is returning to the about of the book.

 

Works Cited

Hejinian, Lyn. "Rejection of Closure." Ed. Paul Hoover. Postmodern American Poetry. NY: W.W. Norton & Co, 1994. 653-658.

-- The Fatalist. Richmond, CA: Omnidawn Publishing, 2003.

  

//   Advance   //