Practical Water


Like Cascadia and Pieces of Air in the Epic, Brenda Hillman's previous two books, Practical water is both an elemental meditation and an ecopoetics: this time her subject is water: Taoist water, baptismal water, water from the muses' fountains, the practical waters of hydrology from which we draw our being - and the stilled water in a glass in a Senate chamber.

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Practical Water

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Like Cascadia and Pieces of Air in the Epic, Brenda Hillman's previous two books, Practical water is both an elemental meditation and an ecopoetics: this time her subject is water: Taoist water, baptismal water, water from the muses' fountains, the practical waters of hydrology from which we draw our being - and the stilled water in a glass in a Senate chamber.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Hillman's eighth collection of poems is the third in her series of book-length meditations on the elements (her last book was Pieces of Air in the Epic). In these aesthetically challenging, yet often surprisingly clear poems, which span the personal, political and environmental, water is simultaneously a transparent vessel, a mirror and an endangered resource. The first section speaks for and through water and other masks from nature. The title poem begins by sounding the book's central question: “What does it mean to live a moral life.” The poem goes on to suggest how we might fruitfully learn from the titular element: “It's hard to be water/ to fall from faucets with fangs/ to lie under travelers as horizons/ but you must.” The second section contains a series of poems based on hearings in Congress, which Hillman actually attended, where “The Congress folks are tired & beige.” The two-part poems in the third section are dialogues with each month's moon (“December Moon,” “January Moon”), which speaks in cryptic hints reminiscent of Louise Glück's flowers: “Don't ask/ who I am. I was/ the dawn song:/ i helped you hide.” Section four looks at the waters of Hillman's native Northern California. Hillman has become an increasingly difficult poet, while simultaneously growing increasingly interested in how poetry can engage political realities. This is one of the most unusual and compelling books so far this year. (Aug.)
From the Publisher
“If history is the public and collective, Hillman is historically engaged She is herself a ‘resister.’ … Section titles¬—‘Of International Waters,’ ‘Of Communal Authority,’ ‘Of the Months When you Work & the Months When you Can’t,’ and ‘Of Local Creeks & Aquaducts’—identify her work as respectively internationalist, socially-committed, conscientious, and eco-poetic. She writes out of and to the society in which she’s located.”—Fiona Sampson, Poetry

"A collection as wise as it is finely crafted, Brenda Hillman's Practical Water is a remarkable addition to this accomplished poet's body of work."—Kristina Marie Darling, The Kenyon Review

"Hillman's Practical Water is moving and exciting."—Janet McCann, Magill’s Literary Annual

“Here is a woman alive to the contradictions and obscenities of modern American power, who can notice the smallest details of life and rejoice in them, who sanctifies the waters of life even as she watches them being destroyed by the alleged progress of capital, and who thereby becomes a contemporary Allen Ginsberg and Denise Levertov, updated and refined through her own unique sensibility and sensitivity to rhythm and paradox.”—Tikkun

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780819569318
  • Publisher: Wesleyan University Press
  • Publication date: 8/3/2009
  • Series: Wesleyan Poetry Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 30
  • Pages: 120
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

BRENDA HILLMAN is the author of seven collections of poetry and, with Patricia Dienstfrey, the editor of The Grand Permission: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (2003). She is the Olivia Filippi Professor of Poetry at Saint Mary’s College, and works with CodePink, a social justice organization against war. Hillman won the William Carlos Williams Award for Pieces of Air in the Epic.

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Table of Contents

Partita for Sparrows 3

Practical Water 4

Enchanted Twig 7

Ballad at the State Capitol 10

Rhopalic Aubade 12

International Dateline 13

The Eighties: An Essay 14

(i looked up from my reading) 16

Phone Booth 17

Tiergarten Scenes 18

Autumn Fugue 21

Shadows in Snow 22

Landing in Fog 23

Pacific Ocean 24

Reportorial Poetry, Trance & Activism: An Essay 33

In a Senate Armed Services Hearing 34

Northern California Women 37

Dragonskin 39

Near the Great Arch 41

A Violet in the Crucible 42

Girl Sleuth 44

From the White House Lawn 45

Permission to Be Strange 46

The Late Cold War 47

In a House Subcommittee on Electronic Surveillance 48

In the Trance 50

Economics in Washington 51

september moon / september moon 57

october moon / october moon 58

november moon / november moon 59

december moon / december moon 60

january moon / january moon 61

february dawn/ february moon 62

march moon / march moon 63

april moon / april moon 64

may moon / may moon 65

june moon / june moon 66

july moon / july moon 67

august moon / september moon 68

Pacific Storms 71

Anthem for Aquifers 72

Local Water & the Universal Sea 75

Request to the Berkeley City Council Concerning Strawberry Creek 76

Berkeley Water 78

The Covenant 80

Earth's Shadow 81

Sacramento Delta 84

Hydrology of California: An Ecopoetical Alphabet 85

Neap Tide 96

Still Points in Water 98

To a Desert Poet 99

Acknowledgments & Notes 101

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