Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Lyn Hejinian, Tribunal

            A work of art is a prophetic loan, drawn on fugitive premises; the artist acts on it, and, presumably, sustains some faith that others will do so too, or at least could.
            For the present, timing is everything.
            Overhead a configuration of crows appears.
            Times slide.
            Predictions are a different matter; a massive earthquake is coming, as is the death of the sun, tyranny, another wedding, more war.
            The trees rise, elm against fascism, ash against misogyny, unalienated beech, free willow, trees presenting continuous oak.
            It is only by silencing the dead that Death can resist them. (“Ring Burial”)

The latest from legendary American poet Lyn Hejinian is Tribunal (Oakland CA: Omnidawn, 2019), a collection of long, lyric sequences composed as essay-poems, irrevocably linking poetry and thinking in a tradition that would include multiple other poets such as Erín Moure, Lisa Robertson, Elisa Gabbert, Jennifer Moxley, Margaret Christakos, Rosmarie Waldrop and Phil Hall. Composed in three longer sequences—“A Human of Mars,” “The Time of Tyranny” and “Ring Burial”—the poems in Heijinian’s Tribunal stretches her meditations across wide canvases, writing through what others have deemed the Age of Trump, the faux-coiffed canary in the coal mine of world politics. She writes on the recent shifts reasserting white supremacy, nationalist tides and corporate greed, and her own attempts in not only responding to stem those tides, but battle her own exhaustion throughout the process. As she writes as part of the third section:

            The tyrant closes the world tightly around himself, he is in the embrace of his own narcissism.
            With the melancholy of self-condemnation and a pen, I, also a tyrant, draw a wall.
            Stand, attend, account, shout.
            All ideas but no acts so no association, no activism, no theater.
            A tyrant proclaims that the future dreams of him, which only means that old age dreams of him.

Is it possible to not only exist, but to thrive and create through such difficult periods? Through Tribunal, her assertion would clearly not only be yes, but the importance of art as both salve and a reliable defense against such backwards thinking, as she writes in “The Time of Tyranny”: “The roof on trust of hover can’t render love / pathetic. I claim too much and yield to the Bighorn Mountains / of which the truth of history is but an indifferent silence.”

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