Lyn Hejinian Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

A practitioner and theoretician of prose poetry and Language poetry, Lyn Hejinian (heh-JIH-nee-ahn) defies easy classification, but at the core of her writing is poetry itself, wedded to its philosophy and to other genres such as fiction and nonfiction. For example, her long prose poem My Life is not only poetry but also autobiography and a novel, and Oxota: A Short Russian Novel is a novel written in poetic stanzas. With the painter Diane Andres Hall, Hejinian created a multimedia exhibit, The Eye of Enduring, in 1996. The musical composition Qúê Trân, which featured text by Hejinian and music by John Zorn, was released on the album New Traditions in East Asian Bar Bands (1997). She was also featured in Letters Not About Love (1998), a documentary film directed by Jacki Ochs about the friendship between Hejinian and Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

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.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Chun, Sehjae. “’Life Is Hopelessly Frayed, All Loose Ends’: The Disruption of a Female Subjectivity in Lyn Hejinian’s My Life.” Feminist Studies in English Literature 12, no. 2 (2004): 1-25. Chun carefully analyzes how Hejinian’s gender-neutral language in My Life is a rhetorical strategy used to expose problems inherent in gender distinction and division. Hejinian’s techniques challenge the notion of predetermined existence as they perpetually model how to construct self-consciousness.

Clark, Hilary. “The Mnemonics of Autobiography: Lyn Hejinian’s My Life.” Biography: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly 14, no. 4 (1991): 315-335. Clark argues that My Life subverts patriarchal discourse and presents the density of lived experience by employing mnemonic techniques that parallel the synchronous nature of memory and the writerly quality of every life.

Dworkin, Craig Douglas. “Penelope Reworking the Twill: Patchwork, Writing, and Lyn Hejinian’s My Life.” Contemporary Literature 36, no. 1 (1995): 58-81. Uses the metaphor of quilting to analyze the effects of Hejinian’s transformative language, which manipulates worn-out syntactic units (like old pieces of fabric) into a uniquely dynamic idiom that is personal and social as well as individual and collective. The...

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