Lyn Hejinian is an American poet, essayist, translator, and leading figure of the Language writers, an aesthetic, political, and social movement of Bay Area poets especially prolific in the wake of the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal in the 1970’s and 1980’s. In 1972, Hejinian collaborated with performance artist Doug Hall and self-published her first collection, a multimedia assemblage of poems and drawings, a gRReat adventure, most of which Hejinian destroyed. As sole founder of Tuumba Press in Berkeley, California, Hejinian was the editor from 1976 to 1984 and published fifty books of contemporary poetry, including some of her own, beginning with her first chapbook, A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking, followed by her first book-length collection, Writing Is an Aid to Memory. She was the coeditor with Barrett Watten of Poetics Journal from 1981 to 1999. Poetics Journal and Tuumba Press established Language poetry as a major movement that merged the formal concerns of language with social and political concerns and waged war on the notion of poetry as didactic, informative, or utilitarian.
Hejinian’s awards include the San Francisco Foundation’s James D. Phelan Award in literature (1974), San Francisco State University’s Poetry Center Book Award (1987), and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts (1978, 1979, 1986, 1988) and from the California Arts Council (1983, 1985, 1988, 1989). Hejinian is codirector with Travis Ortiz of Atelos, a literary project that commissions and publishes cross-genre work by poets. Atelos was nominated in 2001 for a Firecracker Award as one of the best independent literary presses. In 2000, Hejinian received an Academy of American Poets Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement midcareer. In 2005, she won the Shelley Memorial Award, and in 2006 she was elected to the board of chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.