I often think confusion and consequent concerted attention to Hejinian is a great way to approach her writing. Always loved the 'sea glass' of this passage - there's poetry simply in these two words. I am a 'first-time caller' to Hejinian as is said on talk-back radio and find her writing fascinating, almost spell-binding. It also reminds me of some of the passages of prose statements that spammers sometimes use in their email messages to get by server security. I find some of these fascinating too and am now wondering if they were tracts 'lifted' from Hejinian. Thanks Bernadette.
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Born in in Oakland, California, where Gertrude Stein had grown up fifty years earlier, Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essaysist, translator, and publisher who currently lives and teaches in Berkeley, California. Hejinian's work explores how personal identity may be constructed by and through language. Her experimental autobiography My Life , first published in , is the purest example of this poetic project, and established her as one of the foremost members of the Language school of poetry.
My Life is composed of titled prose paragraphs, each built of disjunctive sentences that avoid coherence. The text is allusive and often ambiguous. Many of the sentences appear as windows into a life, while others act as brief aphorisms on the making of the book itself.
Phrases recur and weave together as motifs throughout, making new meanings through repetition. However, Hejinian keeps overall coherence at arm's length: she acknowledges that when writing any history it is "impossible to get close to the original, or to know 'what really happened.
Another significant feature of the work is how it has changed over time. When originally published in , My Life consisted of 37 prose sections, each consisting of 37 sentences; 37 was Hejinian's age at the time of its writing.
Seven years later, a revised edition appeared, expanding the text to 45 sections of 45 sentences, in accordance with the author's age yet again. Hejinian has continued to update the book over time, allowing it to grow with her, and has released a further volume entitled My Life in the Nineties Shark, My Life represents a breakthrough in several respects. It questions the nature of autobiography and challenges the idea of memoir, reevaluating what it means to call a piece of writing a "life.
It is also a hallmark of feminist experimental writing, establishing a new and distinct voice. But the book's greatest strength may be its openness to interpretation. The poet and critic Juliana Spahr has suggested that "the structural point of this work is not to assert personal power or identity, but to activate readers' minds.
National Poetry Month. Materials for Teachers Teach This Poem. Poems for Kids. Poetry for Teens. Lesson Plans. Resources for Teachers. Academy of American Poets. American Poets Magazine. My Life. Somewhere, in the background, rooms share a patern of small roses.
Pretty is as pretty does. In certain families, the meaning of necessity is at one with the sentiment of pre-necessity. The better things were gathered in a pen.
The windows were narrowed by white gauze curtains which were never loosened. Here I refer to irrelevance, that rigidity which never intrudes. Hence, repetitions, free from all ambition. In her essay "The Rejection of Closure," published in The Language of Inquiry UC Press, Hejinian explains the reasons for making such an "open text": "The writer relinquishes total control and challenges authority as a principle and control as a motive. The 'open text' often emphasizes or foregrounds process, either the process of the original composition or of subsequent compositions by readers, and thus resists the cultural tendencies that seek to identify and fix material and turn it into a product; that is, it resists reduction and commodification.
Author: Lyn Hejinian. Publisher: Burning Deck. Academy of American Poets Educator Newsletter. Teach This Poem. Follow Us. Find Poets. Poetry Near You. Jobs for Poets. Read Stanza. Press Center. The Walt Whitman Award. James Laughlin Award. Ambroggio Prize. Dear Poet Project.
My Life Poem Text
These notes were contributed by members of the GradeSaver community. You spill the sugar when you lift the spoon. My father had filled an old apothecary jar with what he called "sea glass," bits of old bottles rounded and textured by the sea, so abundant on beaches. There is no solitude. It buries itself in veracity. It is as if one splashed in the water lost by one's tears. My mother had climbed into the garbage can in order to stamp down the accumulated trash, but the can was knocked off balance, and when she fell she broke her arm.
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