Brenda Hillman (Arizona)

Brenda Hillman (Arizona)


Brenda Hillman is an American poet and translator, born in 1951 in Tucson, Arizona.

A professor of creative writing, she holds the Olivia Filippi Chair in Poetry at St. Mary’s College, in Moraga, California.

The author of numerous poetry books, her collection Bright Existence (1993) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.

In this short note, we highlight in particular Hillman’s ecopoetics and her research on innovative forms of writing.

In the article “SAD in the Anthropocene” appeared in 2012 in Environmental Humanities issue, Duke University Press, focusing on Hillman’s trilogy “Cascadia-Practical Waters-Pieces of Air in the Epics”, Laurel Peacock writes: -Hillman’s poems create a confusion of subject/object and foreground/background relations in which the origins of affects are impossible to determine and harms circulate. Affect is vital in understanding human motivations in relation to climate change, and Hillman’s ecopoetic practice is an example of how we can shift our understanding of our affective relationship to the environment. Linguistic experimentation can shift awareness toward an understanding of the link between “what it felt like to have been a subject” and “what it felt like to have been earth”1 as well as what it feels like now to be indeterminately both, intertwined and in crisis.-.

There is
A river that would drink water
An earth that would walk dirt
A fire that would singe flame
In that air.

In a very interesting interview to Poets and Writers, the author discusses about her process of composition in Cascadia: -One of the ideas I got from André Breton when I read him in college is the use of chance as anchor. I would arbitrarily choose words and make myself use them to anchor the rest of the writing to the page…in the long poem, ‘A Geology,’ the corner words ‘anchor’ the rest of the poem to the page so it wouldn’t float.-

What pushes up from under isn’t
named. Or is that “What makes you do this
to yourself.” – What makes you – A language
caught up under, like a continent.
She was inhaling though they told her not to.

Brenda Hillman is considered one of the most eclectic and formally innovative contemporary writers and her experimental approach to language floats over environment observations and personal meditation and reflection.

Talking about form, she explains: -It is the artist’s job to make form. Not even to make it, but to allow it. Allow form. And all artists have a different relationship to it, and a different philosophy of it… I think that when you are trying to open up a territory—in this case I was working with a desire to open the lyric—you have to be greedy, in that you want more than you can do. And you’re always bound to fail.-

Reading Hillman’s poems is an intense exercise. It drives one’s mind and thoughts towards eco-visions and imagery that tap on human responsibilities and impacts on living and non-living beings.

Ilaria Boffa

Styrofoam Cup
thou still unravished thou
thou, thou bride
thou unstill,
thou unravished unbride
unthou unbride