Pieces of Air in the Epic

Overview

In her newest poems, Brenda Hillman continues her exploration of nature and culture in ways that demonstrate her original place in experimental lyric traditions. Pieces of Air in the Epic is the second book of a tetrology that takes the elements—earth, air, water, fire—as its subject. As Hillman’s previous collection, Cascadia, explores “earth,” the present collection considers “air”—the many meanings of the word and the life-giving medium we breathe—to test a reality that is ...
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Overview

In her newest poems, Brenda Hillman continues her exploration of nature and culture in ways that demonstrate her original place in experimental lyric traditions. Pieces of Air in the Epic is the second book of a tetrology that takes the elements—earth, air, water, fire—as its subject. As Hillman’s previous collection, Cascadia, explores “earth,” the present collection considers “air”—the many meanings of the word and the life-giving medium we breathe—to test a reality that is both political and personal.

These formally inventive poems reexamine epic and lyric, braiding fact and dream, the social with the self. Hypnotic, spare verses use air on the page as a matrix for cultural healing; some are presided over by a feminine presence and address war in human history, while others are set in streets, parks and wilderness. There are meditations on auras, dust motes, and reading in libraries as acts of restorative memory. This work fuses animist consciousness with cautionary prophecy, and belongs to the mode of H.D. and Robert Duncan. Hillman's poetry continues to explore ways in which human life might be redeemed by imagination.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Reaching for prophetic powers without abandoning small-scale details, playing with page-based form while attending to the sound of each line, Hillman's seventh book combines the big ambitions of Cascadia (2001) with the personal touch of Loose Sugar (1997): the result may be her best book yet, both as a book-length project and as a collection of freestanding poems. The "air" Hillman invokes includes human voices, breath and song, with their connotations of spirit and individuality: "People think they are you but they are not/ You are you & no one & everything." Yet by "air" the poet also refers to the atmosphere that circles the globe and carries radio signals, jet planes, and news, especially news of the war in Iraq. "Wind will rend the suburbs/ with information seeking nature," she writes; "The lost one/ is everywhere; you won't/ recover him." Making subtle use of Virgil and Homer, Hillman attends often to ethics and public events: "In the present conflict each fire equals re-used air from the cold war." Yet she returns to the mind, the individual, and the unique imprint of sounds and words, first in essayistic, philosophical poems, in ingeniously argumentative, sawtooth-shaped lines, and in a lyrical conclusions, a set of twelve short poems set in a college library where "Unchecked-out books on/ low tables keep the fragrance of/ of masks." (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
The second in a tetralogy exploring the four elements, Hillman's expansive new work examines air not just as "gusts & siroccos, chinooks, hamskin, whooshes" but as voice, song, and spirit. Were it not such a pun, one would be tempted to call this collection literally breathtaking; Hillman has pursued an ambitious program with remarkably fine-tuned language. (LJ 10/1/05) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher
“Were it not such a pun, one would be tempted to call this collection literally breathtaking; Hillman has pursued an ambitious program with remarkably fine-tuned language.”—Library Journal

“Reaching for prophetic powers without abandoning small-scale details, playing with page-based form while attending to the sound of each line, Hillman's seventh book...may be her best book yet.”—Publishers Weekly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819567871
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 10/26/2005
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 104
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

BRENDA HILLMAN is the author of seven books of poetry, all published by Wesleyan. She teaches at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California.
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Table of Contents

Street Corner
Thyme Suites
Reversible Wind
Air in the Epic
[half-tractate]
Green Pants & a Bamboo Flute
[untitled psalm]
The Value of Empty Protest
Doppler Effect in Diagram Three
Study of Air in Triangles
Wind Treaties
Altamont Pass
[half-tractate]
6 Components of Aristotle
White Fir Description
Statueless Architecture
The Corporate Number Rescue Album
The E in Being
[half-tractate]
On Carmerstrasse
Nine Unititled Epyllions
[interruption]
Your Fate
Echo 858
Manzinita Description
[untitled psalm]
Clouds Near San Leandro
An Oddness
Silent Reading
A Nextopia
Library Dust
Reference-Room Aura
Dust Acolytes
Fourth-Floor Hecatomb
Brittle Economics Monographs
Platonic Oxygen
Restless Auras
Dust Dialectical
Epoch of Dust
String Theory Sutra
Summer Garden
Mars Field Speaks to Vvedensky
Eyes in Aspens
Acknowledgments and Notes
About the Author 
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