cover image THE FATALIST


Lyn Hejinian, . . Omnidawn, $12.95 (84pp) ISBN 978-1-890650-12-4

Readers have perhaps grown used to American poets writing ongoing, complex, reference and symbol-laden poems as if talking to themselves, making the reader a witness to the activity of a dynamic thinker's mind. Pound and Stevens, in their very different ways, are immediate forebears of this style, but Emily Dickinson before them and John Ashbery since are other obvious markers: poets who find as much poetic force in a symbol revealed as in an opaque reference to a current, but hidden, stream of thought. Hejinian's stature in this tradition increases with the publication of this book. Even more than her long poem A Border Comedy and the shorter pieces that have appeared since (Happily ; Slowly and The Beginner ), The Fatalist takes advantage of the tropes of fiction while admonishing narrative for not being able to contain the will of the poet: "I'm just an existentialist moving pictures/ in a pool. Certainly I'm no novelist but if I were I would/ (that's for sure) cast these circles around a troupe of troubled comedians/ named Lola de Nova and Relative Inch and Daisy and Martha/ and Gus," as one of the rich, run-on verses of this poem begins. Hejinian has changed styles so many times, it's exciting to see her settle into a new grand, permissive and open format, and reel out some beautiful sentences in startling succession. (Oct.)

FYI: Hejinian's My Life remains a signature, oft-assigned long poem (with its own parody site:, and Hejinian, with gentle irony and resolute reflection, updates and re-reckons in a new, separate work, My Life in the Nineties, using the original work's form of sentences and impressions correlated to particular years of her life (Shark Books [SPD, dist.], $12 paper 96p ISBN 0-9664871-9-2).