cover image The Unfollowing

The Unfollowing

Lyn Hejinian. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (96p) ISBN 978-1-63243-015-1

Transfixing and restless, Hejinian’s book-length series of elegies takes its title from its central formal constraint: each line is a non sequitur from the preceding one. The mere fact of proximity of course invites a sense of relation, a persistence of meaning that Hejinian (My Life and My Life in the Nineties) concedes: “O experiential friend, let us kiss and make sense.” Though replete with the pleasures of juxtaposition, nonsense, and surprising resonance, Hejinain pushes disjuncture beyond lyric play at the peripheries of reason. Throughout, one has the feeling of reading against the grain; while the reader’s approach is sequential—and indeed the book is a numbered sequence—each new line re-centers (and thereby de-centers) the shape of the poem, such that the kaleidoscopic nature of the project pulls against the linear nature of the codex. Hejinian adds to this formal tension by using a 14-line form that in every other way rails against the traditional qualities of the sonnet, including wildly different line lengths, thematic expansiveness, and ultimate unresolvability. This book is jam-packed with imagery of all stripes, exclamations, aphorisms, facts, lies, and flights of rhetoric and imagination. While Hejinian’s form addresses the incoherence one feels in the face of death, the content responds with defiance. (Apr.)