$10.00 • 39 pp. • 2000
“Lyn Hejinian’s Happily…is a series of aphoristic statements interrogating ‘hap’ or, more prosaically, one’s lot in life, one’s fortune. This notion of chance as it is expressed through its root form, as in to happen, happenstance, happenings, haphazard, happenchance, happily, and happy happiness, becomes the generator that enlivens this ontological exploration of language’s relationship to experience.”
—from “Some Thoughts on Lyn Hejinian’s Happily” by Claudia Rankine published in American Poet
This small book-length poem by Hejinian (My Life; The Cold of Poetry; etc.) presents a loosely linked series of everyday, abstracted pleasures where time is tactile yet immeasurable; when recognized, though, it is a revelation: ‘Now is a blinding instant one single explosion but somehow some part of it gets accentuated/ And each time the moment falls the emphasis of the moment falls into time differently/ No sooner noticed no sooner now that falls from something/ Now is a noted conjunction/ The happiness of knowing it appears.’ The reader is expertly guided through this neo-Bergsonian time-space by stresses that don’t fall into regularity; likewise, conclusions appear, but lead only to the promise of further discoveries, of possible futures. The American pragmatist–like guiding principle here seems to be that one should not linger over thoughts or linguistic structures that could not, in fact, survive the exigencies of the quotidian, yet we are assured that this process is not mere relativism: ‘There is no `correct path.’ ‘The poem nonetheless ends beautifully, clearly coming down on the side of uncontaminated, yet non-solipsistic pleasure as a quality worth fighting for: ‘No, happily I’m feeling the wind in its own right rather than as of particular pertinence to us as a windy moment/ I hear its lines leaving in a rumor the silence of which is to catch on quickly to arrange things in preparation for what will come next/ That may be the thing and logically we go then it departs.’ ‘This near-treatise by one of our major experimental poets succeeds on its own terms,’ ‘in its own right.’ (Mar.) FYI: The Post-Apollo Contemporary Poetry Series has published perfect-bound, 6 1/2 x 5 3/4 books, among others, since 1994.”
Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essayist, and translator. Her groundbreaking book of poetry, My Life, has had five reprintings from 1980-2002. Her most recent books include A Border Comedy (2001), Slowly and The Beginner (2002), THE FATALIST (2003), Saga/Circus (2008), and The Book of a Thousand Eyes(2012). The University of California Press published a collection of her essays entitled The Language of Inquiry in 2000. In the spring of 2007, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She teaches in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley.