The Book of a Thousand Eyes

The Book of a Thousand Eyes

by Lyn Hejinian
     
 


Poetry. Written over the course of two decades, THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND EYES was begun as an homage to Scheherazade, the heroine of The Arabian Nights who, through her nightly tale-telling, saved her culture and her own life by teaching a powerful and murderous ruler to abandon cruelty in favor of wisdom and benevolence. Hejinian's book is a compendium of …  See more details below

Overview


Poetry. Written over the course of two decades, THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND EYES was begun as an homage to Scheherazade, the heroine of The Arabian Nights who, through her nightly tale-telling, saved her culture and her own life by teaching a powerful and murderous ruler to abandon cruelty in favor of wisdom and benevolence. Hejinian's book is a compendium of "night works"—lullabies, bedtime stories, insomniac lyrics, nonsensical mumblings, fairy tales, attempts to understand at day's end some of the day's events, dream narratives, erotic or occasionally bawdy ditties, etc. The poems explore and play with languages of diverse stages of consciousness and realms of imagination. Though they may not be redemptive in effect, the diverse works that comprise THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND EYES argue for the possibilities of a merry, pained, celebratory, mournful, stubborn commitment to life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Ample, enticing, slippery, sometimes funny, and all too easily divided into its 300-odd independent segments, the latest from the Berkeley-based, much-honored experimental poet (Saga/Circus) investigates the realms of sleep and dreams. “It’s not with my permission that dreams embed knowledge,” Hejinian says early on. “In the end I’ll win—I’ll proclaim that I can’t remember all of them.” Perhaps modeled on dream journals, this big collection offers something for everyone: compressed fairy tales; minimal poems on the model of Aram Saroyan (“Sun!/ look ups”); imitation folk rhyme, and even doggerel; Sappho-like fragments; reflections on poetic method; gnomic wisdom in verse (“Philosophy should not be hostile to the eyes”), and sharp remarks in prose: “We begin as small clowns and end as repulsive overgrown ones—perhaps this is the truth with which the clown frightens us.” Circuses, ships at sea, and small bits from canonical poets (Robert Frost, for example) circulate regularly throughout—like recurring figures in dreams. Hejinian’s familiar taste for dry abstraction finds a useful foil in dream’s tendency toward images and sleep’s resistance to linear thought: “Dreams are like ghosts,” one meditative page says, “achieving ghosts’ perennial goal/ Of revoking the sensation of repose.” (Apr.)
From the Publisher

"For Lyn Hejinian the concept "everything" or "everything living" is the greatest seduction. In this book of tales, poems, polemics, lullabies, treatises, asides (the behavior of birds, the behavior of ghosts; the dramas of capital, species, percipient individual), "everything" is captive to life and continuation is queen. Like Scheherazade's ploy, to which it more than nods, The Book of a Thousand Eyes spins out scene after moral after speculation merely for the payoff one wakes to daily—the privilege of beginning again. "Nothing has been proved," of course, but the combined exhilaration and outrage of what experience means in the language of the twenty-first century is robustly nailed in this book. "Sleep," Hejinian says, "can't put interpretation to rest"—far from it; regardless of which consciousness these antic and anti-summary works probe, they propose the very opposite of rest. Hejinian's sallies are at once pragmatic, mysterious, and an utter delight to read."  —Jean Day, author, The I and the You

"A third of the way into The Book of a Thousand Eyes comes the question, "Isn't sleep fitted to this world?" And the easy answer—abundantly Yes—both masks and unveils the bigger shape. (As the Earl of Anglesey noted, "To this Rhetorical Question the Commons pray they may Answer by another Question.") The devil's in the details every night, all night. Lyn Hejinian knows that familiarity breeds the predictable but she knows as well that—and how—"contact produces uncertainty." So this is a brilliantly uncertain book, a book of practical and fantastic connection, connection as multiple and as hopeless as love might be, connection as big and leggy as the night is long. Here, the old bifurcations and faultless authorities are broken down into a continuous waking hour. Waking?—owl-like, magnificent, traveling. Continuous?—"Our sleep has no conclusion." This book is night itself."  —C. S. Giscombe, author, Prairie Style

Library Journal
Although, according to the poet, this collection was inspired by Scheherazade, the heroine of The Arabian Nights, Hejinian (English, Univ. of California, Berkeley; Saga/Circus) doesn't straightforwardly tell stories so much as she implies them. All of the poems in this collection are anchored in dreamlike states, evoking, for the most part, the minutes in which the narrator is falling asleep or awakening. Generally without titles, these language poems depend on their first lines to set the stage for Hejinian's rambling night thoughts. In one of the more engaging works, "A dream, still clinging like light to the dark, rounding," Hejinian, who is a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, muses on falling asleep, dreaming, and being awakened by outside noises. As with the other poems here, "A dream" works by alliteration, enjambment, and metaphysical wordplay, as when the poet says that a new day has "the psychical quality of 'pastness.'" Although most of the pieces are short, a few longer prose poems are also included. VERDICT Disdaining traditional conceptions of meaning, these pieces teeter sometimes pleasingly on the edge of incoherence.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., Lutherville, MD

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781890650575
Publisher:
Omnidawn Publishing
Publication date:
04/01/2012
Pages:
344
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.90(d)

What People are saying about this

Jean Day
“For Lyn Hejinian the concept “everything” or “everything living” is the greatest seduction. In this book of tales, poems, polemics, lullabies, treatises, asides (the behavior of birds, the behavior of ghosts; the dramas of capital, species, percipient individual), “everything” is captive to life and continuation is queen. Like Scheherazade’s ploy, to which it more than nods, The Book of a Thousand Eyes spins out scene after moral after speculation merely for the payoff one wakes to daily—the privilege of beginning again. “Nothing has been proved,” of course, but the combined exhilaration and outrage of what experience means in the language of the twenty-first century is robustly nailed in this book. “Sleep,” Hejinian says, “can’t put interpretation to rest”—far from it; regardless of which consciousness these antic and anti-summary works probe, they propose the very opposite of rest. Hejinian’s sallies are at once pragmatic, mysterious, and an utter delight to read.”
C. S. Giscombe
“A third of the way into The Book of a Thousand Eyes comes the question, “Isn’t sleep fitted to this world?” And the easy answer—abundantly Yes—both masks and unveils the bigger shape. (As the Earl of Anglesey noted, “To this Rhetorical Question the Commons pray they may Answer by another Question.”) The devil’s in the details every night, all night. Lyn Hejinian knows that familiarity breeds the predictable but she knows as well that—and how—“contact produces uncertainty.” So this is a brilliantly uncertain book, a book of practical and fantastic connection, connection as multiple and as hopeless as love might be, connection as big and leggy as the night is long. Here, the old bifurcations and faultless authorities are broken down into a continuous waking hour. Waking?—owl-like, magnificent, traveling. Continuous?—“Our sleep has no conclusion.” This book is night itself.”

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Meet the Author


Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her groundbreaking book of poetry, MY LIFE, published by Sun & Moon/Green Integer, has had five reprintings from 1980-2002. Her most recent books include A BORDER COMEDY (Granary Books, 2001), SLOWLY and THE BEGINNER (both published by Tuumba Press, 2002), THE FATALIST (Omnidawn, 2003), SAGA/CIRCUS (Omnidawn, 2008), and THE BOOK OF A THOUSAND EYES (Omnidawn, 2012). The University of California Press published a collection of her essays entitled The Language of Inquiry in 2000. In the spring of 2007, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She teaches in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley.

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