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The Language of Inquiry

The Language of Inquiry
Author: Lyn Hejinian
ISBN 13: 9780520217003
ISBN 10: 520217004
Edition: N/A
Publisher: University of California Press
Publication Date: 2000-11-06
Format: Paperback
Pages: 391
List Price: $34.95

"Hejinian's essays are a keystone of postwar North American poetics. They are also a great pleasure to read, for Hejinian is an extraordinarily resonant stylist whose work combines the lushness of her poetry with an engaging aesthetic and philosophical inventiveness. This is writing that avoids closure in the pursuit of unfolding, multifaceted, restive thought. The Language of
meditations on the possibilities of poetry create an experience in which each reader is at the center. To engage with this work is to be put in touch with oneself as if anew."—Charles Bernstein, author of My Way: Speeches and Poems

"From 1975, when she wrote 'A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking' — the first 'essay' in this collection — Lyn Hejinian has always regarded poetry and poetics as intimately interwoven: her poetry has sometimes been highly theoretical even as her theoretical and critical peices are nothing if not poetic. The Language of
the first collection of Hejinian's essays, lectures, introductions, and meditations, constitutes, in the words of Gertrude Stein, about whom she has written so brilliantly, Hejinian's own 'composition as explanation,' culminating in her new long Steinian poem, aptly called 'Happily.' This is an exciting and deeply moving book."—Marjorie Perloff, author of Wittgenstein's Ladder

Intelligence is romantic.' These essays, prefaces, lectures, aphorisms, portraits, and meditations, by one of America's most innovative poets, passionately explore, as did the critical writings of Gertrude Stein, Marianne Moore, and Wallace Stevens, the philosophical foundations of contemporary American culture. [For Hejinian, the process of 'theorizing is . . . a manner of vulnerable, inquisitive, worldly living . . . very closely bound to the poetic process.'] The Language of
brilliantly demonstrates the myriad, paradoxical ways in which philosophy and poetry are indivisible and distinct." —Susan Howe

Publishers Weekly

Hejinian's My Life, an urtext of language poetry, has found its way onto countless contemporary poetry and women's studies syllabi, as well as the bookshelves of poets and other readers, for the complex transparency of its thought and the beauty of its language. For poets in the know, Hejinian is also the author of Writing Is an Aid to Memory, Oxota: A Short Russian Novel and The Cell, among other trenchant experimental books. This collection of essays from a 25-year period provides some of the ideational backstory to those works and shows how Hejinian has processed influences like Stein ("Two Stein Talks," "Three Lives," "A Common Sense" and elsewhere), the figure of Faust ("La Faustienne") and others, often from a carefully contextualized feminist perspective. Several q&a's enlarge upon specifics of Hejinian's poetic practices, while others take stock of the language movement from the inside. The most valuable essays here are the least synthetic: "A Thought Is the Bride of What Thinking," first publishing in 1976 and long out of print ("Lucidities, or, lines. The starry angular varieties of recurrent word and changed idea in constellation gather"), and "Strangeness," from more than 10 years later, taking the form of journal entries and dream narrative that beautifully convey the psychological dimensions of abstract thought. The book ends with the wonderfully discursive poem "Happily," recently issued by Post-Apollo Press (Forecasts, Feb. 21), and those for whom the status of "Reason" or "Forms of Alterity" still matter will be happy, too. (Dec.) Forecast: Academic work on language poetry and Hejinian continues apace; libraries and scholars will provide a steady market for this book. Any store with a literary theory section will want to stock this title; for those with limited poetry sections, My Life and Writing Is an Aid to Memory remain essential. Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.