The Book of a Thousand Eyes

Lyn Hejinian. Omnidawn (IPG, dist.), $24.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-890650-57-5
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.)
Reviewed on: 12/19/2011
Release date: 04/01/2012
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