Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days

Brenda Hillman. Wesleyan Univ., $24.95 (152p) ISBN 978-0-8195-7805-1
Hillman, winner of the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize for Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, continues her sustained attention to the natural elements in her 10th and most lavish collection. Having written four previous books each addressing one of the four traditional elements of nature, here she considers wood as a fifth element, making her hieroglyphic way through “forests of grief” as might one of the book’s beloved beetles, “pressing/ their whole jeweled bodies/ in the beauty of the bark.” Neither simply empirical nor transcendental, Hillman’s poetry takes what she calls “woodmind”—a sort of deep attention to natural processes—and applies it to notions of human action, recollection, imagination, and craft. The book includes gorgeous long-form elegies, poems of witness and social activism, and odes to the national forest and seashore. Hillman’s work will find a ready audience in poets of her own generation, as well as those younger poets following in her footsteps, in whose hands the category of “ecopoetry” has exploded, sporelike, into countless unnamed species. But this book could find a larger readership, as well: “You who don’t understand poetry/ Of course you do/ Stand in the shadows in a dream/ Write from where you are/ Write what you want to read.” Hillman’s urgent “ambulance of art” is bound to move readers to grief, outrage, and wonder. Agency: Blue Flower Arts. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/18/2017
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