Statement of Philosophy

A site for exploration and discussion about verse, poetics, the aesthetic, and creative writing in general.

Because there is a profound difference between writing something to be read and writing something worth reading; and in that difference might beauty be found.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

My Life by Lyn Hejinian

My Life (Sun & Moon Press, 1987) – apparently this is a second edition, differing from a 1980 edition also published by Sun & Moon Press.

Other works:

William S. Burroughs. The Soft Machine, The Ticket that Exploded, The Nova Express (Grove Press, originally published 1961, 1962, 1964)

Marjorie Perloff. The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition (Northwestern UP, 1985).


a question of confidence; an issue of strength


Hejinian's My Life is usually classed as prose. But because of (1) the nature of the book, (2) Hejinian's relation to L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, and (3) the issues covered, it fits well on this site.

This full length essay has been posted as well to Hatters Cabinet site, here. On that page is a link to the essay in pdf format.


I have read Lyn Hejinian's My Life twice (if I remember correctly). And with "read" it should be understood that both times I was forcing my way through the book. I did not get to the end by the energies of the pleasure of reading; I got to the end because, for essentially academic reasons (if self-imposed), I felt it necessary: the first go through was because I felt I needed a basic familiarity with the book; the second was because I wanted to affirm or reject my first response. If that response has somehow evaded you in this paragraph I will be blunt: no, I do not hold My Life to be meritable literature.

I picked it up again a couple months ago (indeed, I pick it up here and there when I come across its name to test it yet again) and it has since sat within arm's reach at one reading place or another, though mostly I have only been re-reading the first few chapters. The reason I picked it back up this time was because I have recently finished re-reading Burroughs's Nova Trilogy, and wanted to explore the differences between the works, as both present a fragmentary text though of different methods and natures. (For the record, that was the second time I had read the Nova Trilogy straight through; though, unlike My Life, I first came to the trilogy because Naked Lunch and Cities of the Red Night had already made me an admirer of Burroughs.)

The question that I was and am exploring is a simple one: why do I revel in and praise Burroughs but am bored by and reject Hejinian?