Wednesday, November 26, 2003

On Lyn Hejinian's Slowly 

"Reviews should be short." --Painter and art critic Fairfield Porter.

I wrote a "microreview" of Lyn Hejinian's recent book Slowly, which was published in the October/November issue of The Boston Review. Now that we're moving into December I want to post the review here as well.

--Tom Devaney

Lyn Hejinian
Tuumba Press, $10.00

Lyn Hejinian impressive recent book-length poem Slowly, from her own Tuumba Press, is not out to explain or even interpret the world, but rather to reveal, explore and enjoy its abundantly intricate parts. Like her well-regarded My Life, The Cold of Poetry, or 2001’s A Border Comedy, Slowly continues Hejinian’s use of the book as capacious and ever-revealing instrument of perception. She writes, "Between the shores down comes a sound/track/ We get music which is time moving loudly".

From "sound track to sight track" Slowly threads together "the presentation of things that are abruptly otherwise" and the patient art of "intervals" (between words, space and mind) "that never join".

The book is written in lines that allow sentences to breath in their own intelligent, composite, and expansive modes, Hejinian writes, "All day subjectivity is an endurance awaiting/objects for a minute digressing/ And it hopes for objects eager and unbaffled in spaces somewhere near eye level to greet it with/comprehension during its waking hours". In section after section scenarios are generated to reveal the unique exactly. She writes, "If there is nothing but uniqueness, we have to/accept chaos quickly, it’s the underlying logic of/ uniqueness".

Taking photographs (or shots) and looking up words, only to find more words, as well as the act of just physically looking up -- all contribute to Hejinian’s ongoing inquiry into the possibilities of framing, defining, and proposing. "One can’t look up and see mathematics, one/can’t look up and find autonomy/Find circumnavigation, find farms". There is an assurance in Hejinian’s radical skepticism and in her masterful use of sentences, which seem to know they are sentences: "Abandon is not something to abandon". And again she writes, and considers, "I go slowly in acknowledgment and know I’ll/ have to go there again".

Throughout the poem, Hejinian explores the troupe of speed in its various configurations: "Night comes whose terminus is the future we/cannot leave before the end though the end never/comes, it’s all that slow". Later she writes, "I don’t know if this can be called slowly or/ quickly". Slowly is a deep, probing, and beautiful book and one that is patient to connect to the material and arbitrary world -- "Dreaming to think accidentally?/ Slowly to no outcome".


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