Welcome to our online companion for careful readers and teachers of Brenda Hillman’s work. You will find reviews and analysis of her books Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days and Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, interviews with Hillman, as well as other writings that clarify her poetics.
About the poetic collections:
“[Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days] is a sort of sequel or adjunct to Hillman’s elemental quartet, each of which took its inspiration from one of the four classical elements: earth, air, water and fire. The last, “Seasonal Works With Letters on Fire,” was a fierce work of political protest. The new book, which meditates on the life in the margins of the other elements — trees, lichen, bacteria — partly feels like a response to the last years’ headlines and Trump’s executive orders scaling back environmental protections. Hillman laments America’s threatened forests and seashores (while also soberly celebrating them), as well as “the full-of-plastic Pacific.” The hope that Hillman musters comes from particular people and communities, and from the enduring and cyclical powers of nature, not from political leaders: “it’s too late for countries/ but it’s not too late for trees.” (Craig Morgan Teicher, LA Times)
Fire— its physical, symbolic, political, and spiritual forms—is the fourth and final subject in Brenda Hillman’s masterful series on the elements. Her previous volumes—Cascadia, Pieces of Air in the Epic, Practical Water—have addressed earth, air, and water. Here, Hillman evokes fire as metaphor and as event to chart subtle changes of seasons during financial breakdown, environmental crisis, and street movements for social justice; she gathers factual data, earthly rhythms, chants to the dead, journal entries, and lyric fragments in the service of a radical animism. In the polyphony of Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, the poet fuses the visionary, the political, and the personal to summon music and fire at once, calling the reader to be alive to the senses and to re-imagine a common life.
Brenda Hillman is an activist, writer, and teacher. She has published nine collections of poetry, all from Wesleyan University Press, including Practical Water, for which she won the Los Angeles Times Book Award for Poetry. Hillman serves on the faculty of Saint Mary’s College in Moraga, California, as the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry.
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