Remembering Lyn Hejinian

Photo by Blake Martin.

We start this week off with unwelcome news that resonates widely: Lyn Hejinian has passed away suddenly at the age of 82. Our own Al Filreis shared the following message this morning, reflecting the feelings of many of us at  Jacket2KWH, and PennSound:

The loss of the wonderful, talented, groundbreaking, generous poet and literary citizen Lyn Hejinian has rocked the poetry world. Those who knew her personally — as many of us at the Writers House did — and those who have read and discussed her work (e.g. the experimental coming-of-age book-length prose poem, My Life), are already feeling the impact of the loss: we won’t be able to read new poems and new books by Lyn. It remains for us to read and re-read the astonishing writings she left us.

As a close friend of our overlapping projects, it's no surprise that Hejinian is well-represented on both  Jacket2 and PennSound. Here at Jacket2, pieces with Hejinian as author or co-author include the essay "Continuing Against Closure," a furthering of her foundational essay "The Rejection of Closure" (which appeared in Jacket #14 in 2001); "I Am Suddenly Aware That Phrases Happen," the transcription of a 2005 talk with Filreis; "We Might Say Poetry," Hejinian's contribution to a 2005 feature in tribute to Ken Irby; and a transcription of Ted Berrigan's 1978 appearance on In the American Tree. You'll also find reviews of recent books by B.K. Fischer and Tim Wood, and articles referencing Hejinian by Miriam Atkin ("'to be a boundless reflection': On Critical Composition in Hejinian and Scalapino's 'Sight' and 'Hearing'"), Hillary Gravendyk ("Uses of the Useless"), and Raymond de Borja ("Lineated Time: Some Thoughts on the Line in Poetry").

Her encyclopedic PennSound author page presents approximately 150 individual files (complete readings and individual tracks) spanning 1977 to the present, which amply represent her diverse lives as poet, critic, publisher, and translator. Those recordings include germinal talks given as part of series organized by Bob Perelman and Charles Bernstein, readings (with My Life well represented) from every corner of the US, and Hejinian as both interviewee and interviewer (on her series of In the American Tree programs co-hosted with Kit Robinson on KPFA-FM). Hejinian's "constant change figures" was the subject of PoemTalk #15 in 2009.

Like many others in the poetry world, we are still reeling from the news, and join our community in grieving the loss of a poet of such tremendous influence.