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Cascadia (Wesleyan Poetry Series) [Paperback]

By Brenda Hillman (Author)
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Item description for Cascadia (Wesleyan Poetry Series) by Brenda Hillman...

Named for the ancient landform that preceded present-day California, Brenda Hillman's Cascadia creates from geological turbulence a fluid poetics of place. The book is Hillman's sixth collection and her most wide-ranging. The problem the book poses is nothing less than a phenomenology of transformation. In her previous work, Hillman's investigations of alchemy and of contemporary life have created their own distinct mythologies, and here she turns to the first of the four basic elements, earth, to demonstrate a visionary science with a combination of lightness, wit and force.
Embodied in syntax as unpredictable as the earth's movements, these poetic forms speak to and query the landforms as the line between faith and science blurs. Short lyrics inspired by the California missions, each with a retablo of punctuation, reflect on the solitude and history of the sign as it moves through the quotidian. Set among these lyrics, each of the three long poems in the book presents an aspect of Hillman's topography. By the end of this powerful work, a new state is visible: a Modernist poetics, subjected to immense internal pressures, above and beneath unsettled ground, has emerged in original shapes

Citations And Professional Reviews
Cascadia (Wesleyan Poetry Series) by Brenda Hillman has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 12/31/2008 page 769
  • Publishers Weekly - 08/06/2001 page 86
  • Library Journal - 11/01/2001 page 98
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2002 page 87
  • Wilson Public Library Catalog - 01/01/2004 page 598

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Wesleyan
Pages   77
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 0.25" Width: 6" Height: 8.75"
Weight:   0.35 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Aug 31, 2001
Publisher   Wesleyan
ISBN  0819564923  
ISBN13  9780819564924  

Availability  0 units.

More About Brenda Hillman

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! BRENDA HILLMAN began writing poetry when she was a child in Tucson. She is the author of Coffee, 3 A.M. (1982), and two other books of poetry published by Wesleyan University Press, White Dress (1985) and Fortress (1989). Her work has won the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award for Poetry, the Poetry Society of America's Norma Farber First Book Prize, an NEA fellowship, the Silver Medal for Poetry from the Commonwealth Club, and the Jerome Shestack Prize for best poems published in American Poetry Review. She lives in Kensington, California, and teaches at St. Mary's College of California in Moraga.

Brenda Hillman teaches writing at St. Mary's College in Moraga, CA. Her other books, all published by Wesleyan, include Cascadia (2001), Loose Sugar (1997), Death Tractates (1992), and Bright Existence (1992).

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > General
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Poetry > Single Authors > United States
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > Poetry > 20th Century
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > United States > Poetry > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Cascadia (Wesleyan Poetry Series)?

Body and Soil  May 2, 2005
In Cascadia, her sixth volume of poetry, Hillman conflates the individual body with the earth's body, and sets out to explore the overlapping geographies of each. This mission of the artist seeking to gain self-knowledge through observation of her environment is decidedly old-fashioned, and therefore posits a sublime counterpoint to this particular artist's stylistically innovative, experimental approach.

Hillman's concerns are varied and fascinating. She deftly incorporates environmentalist critiques of consumerism (el nino orogon) and colonialism (cascadia) into the text of the poems without once sounding preachy. She accomplishes this by keeping her poetic voice identifiable and down-to-earth, despite the technical acrobatics and her unmistakably unique vision of the world. The metaphor of gold runs throughout the book, both the physical gold that drew the prospectors of the California gold rush and the spiritual gold of alchemy. Through an exploration of the shared properties of earth and human, Hillman individualizes the history of the earth and historicizes the state of the individual, demonstrating how much we are related to our environment.

As early as in the first poem, Hillman compares "an old punk's Mohawk" to "evidence of inner fire," the same fire that she will describe as molten, gushing out of the earth. Later, she compares faultlines to fate lines on the palm of god's hand and, in the masterful Shirley Poem, begins with the statement "Physical earth reveals itself as persons." There is an almost mystical bent to this notion, though Hillman's writing could never be accused of the namby-pambyness, the mush and blandness that comes with most contemporary poetry that takes its ostensible inspiration from the same. She casts a sweeping gaze over geological time, (as in the title of the poem called The Formation of Soils, intentionally constructed to resonate as "souls"), and establishes the world of the book, the terms of it, through equations, like a chemist (the hand-drawn diagram in Birth of Lace) or an alchemist, the medieval mystic, the searcher of spiritual gold. In Fresno Lunette she actually uses an equal sign, writing Dirt = guts of a star. There is something fanciful, almost adolescent in that gesture, a thumbing one's nose quality and it's this flourish coupled with the rigorous scrutiny that Hillman obviously directs to her work that sets Hillman apart from her contemporaries and makes the reader sit up and take notice.
crucial intervention of our everyday comprehension  Apr 25, 2005
Margins are not, in this book, marginal, but have a potent, unsettling agency-"A left margin watches the sea floor approach." The peripheral is central is peripheral, and in some sort of symbiotic séance with geology Hillman slices sentences to reveal their difficult epoxy-"tearing up sentences / to make them clean"..." A merging subverts the categories / Some words shouldn't marry." This book is stretched like a canvas across this difficult (though ultimately liberating) truth-the only terra firma is found at fault lines, where the earth, like our lives/minds/worlds is unresolved, shifting-"experience has been sent up, at an angle." In places, the poems here are literally turned on their sides, creating something like the musical score of topography, the difficult brail of sight ("Sight stops other categories"). Hillman layers the continuous and the intermittent until causality is predominantly a question, complicated, until meaning is not a factory or strategy ("Creation doesn't fail though / the meaning sea dies."), but a generative opening, "a shade not resolved in the mind / because it is the mind."

Here, meaning escapes the cult of the individual-(enter: The "we"-)-the ploy of the cohesive subject / narrative / scene-for "This need to be unique / has mostly made us miserable." Yes, this book will cure you of your craving for control, for anything as dehumanizing as remote controls, pull the freak in you out on the street for a tete a tete talk, a walk through the flickering corridors, the disintegrating corridors, the doors that fall off as you open them. Hillman destabilizes the page by putting words like specimen jars in the corners ("unattached" to the poem), by invoking logograms, by post-performance script dribbling down the page, by the ghost phrases that sit in the bucket seats of the left margin (for ex: hydrangea pre-Naugahyde teabag Four Points Fresno song not anti-song I laughed or Formica kitchenette soap little soap), whisper through the bone china of the poem. "Of course there was no mother / lode; of course it was unlikely." These poems are haunted by evocative figures that you will not soon forget, that flicker like a blip on the screen, like a mistake. These poems recognize how "We wanted / the extraordinary stranger in our veins," a boy with mirrors in his spine (useless in their integration; scaffolding no tool) drifting, "the doomed forms, singing, `Toy sold separately'."
Tellutectonic  Mar 14, 2005
"Cascadia" is as close to a perfect 10 on the poetic Richter scale as words can get. Like California, like the range of subjects, voices, stances, emotions, and thoughts here, her technical blitz sprawls over (falls in, widens, tightens, presses, fractures) multiple fault lines: typographic, lyric, narrative, polysyntactic. "Cascadia" is a choir where Hillman's "personal" voice rarely solos (as she writes in the title poem: "People think poets make poems / Poems make poems lying down"); mostly, it seems like the language, the psychic and material landscape, has upped and seized control in order to abolish it, get beyond to more interesting and urgent spaces. Every next poem has just shifted tonally and formally in radical ways. Reading here is like mountain climbing: it rarely gets easier, and the further you go, the less you can breathe, but the vista grows in blissful proportion. There are some tremendously difficult poems here, but they convey no coyness, posturing, pretension, self-regard, or anything but a metamorphic need to be as they are. At times Hillman has succeeded in reaching an egoless (or less-ego) based writing that doesn't leave the reader groping for purchase.

There are so many gorgeous complexities to this work that only whole volumes of prose could adequately explain. Lest that make it sound utterly impenetrable, be assured that no matter who you are, there is at least one poem here that you will love, and many parts of many others that will shock and salve you. Plurality is a guardian angel here, as is change-merge-flux. Echoes are ingrained everywhere of poetic voices as antipodal as Gary Snyder (in "Sediments of Santa Monica": "After the twentieth century these cliffs / Looked like ribbons on braids or dreads... We're still growing up but the stitches hurt Let us be / True to one another for the world / Easy on the myths now / Make it up Sleep well") and John Ashbery (in "Haste Makes Channing": "His cellphone was ringing into the mocha; / a general brightness-; (of xylocaine, or / in Donne's "The Relic," / the bright hair-) / Several trends inside the main idea."), Gertrude Stein (in "Shared Custody": "When a child is dropped off in front of the other parent's house she creates a / history of space and yellow hurrying in the unopposed direction as we / learn to read by hurrying meaning.... As x falls by prearrangement with the experimenters, yellow is unopposed. The / child, leaving the car, drops an alphabet on the path. y. e. l. Shaving of / yellow, central plaid, black from a fraction if she has been brave about / including the math.") and Wallace Stevens (in "Songless Era": "A fine ash obscured the sun. / Leaves grew large as rooms. / Stamped recreants strolled near the pond of wands.").

Like Cascadia, the prehistoric landmass that once bordered what was the sea of California, this book has slipped under in order to let something new become: under poetic convention, under the guile of the one-I'd lyric speaker that has dominated American verse (in the land of the blind...), under grammatical rigidity, under the gilding of our economy and into the taints and ravages of its origins as well as its ongoing, ever displaced and disappeared violence. "Cascadia" is a challenging, rewarding, vital, and powerful fusion of the ecological, the feminist, the linguistic, the theological, the historical, the personal, the geological, and the self-consciously poetic. It will take a great deal of time (of the most pleasurable kind) to fully explore its rich ranges.
a good poet continues to go wrong  Aug 3, 2002
What a talented poet brenda hillman is; full of brilliant phrases and keen perceptions, she's one of the few american poets who is culturally/politically observant and also authentically spiritual in her orientation. This is a potentially important and powerful combination of virtues, the poet all of us american readers and believers might hope for. Unfortunately, Hillman seems to be(I hope not) permanently infected with the experimentalist west coast poetics of fracture and obscurity; her poetry is increasingly marred by the coy mannerisms, the arid abstract occultations of the american left bank-- the result is that more and more of her poems are unreadable, and seem in fact made for that small audience of other "cool" hyper-intellectual, anti-representational poets; hillman is not the first poet to be misguided by a desperate desire to be thought of as ultra hip, but it's our loss too; the author of the resonant and lovely books bright existence fortress and death tractates has now written two unreadable collections, books which manage to be both over- and under-inflated at the same time. It's very frustrating. A cautionary tale: be careful who you go to cocktail parties with; you might get your head bent.
Poetry that is profound, turbulent, and impressive  Apr 9, 2002
Cascadia is an ancient landform that preceded present-day California. Taken for the title of Brenda Hillman's collection of short lyrics, we are treated to a poetry that is profound, turbulent, and impressive. Glacial Erratics: The last ice age had been caused by a wobble./After it passed they made houses from stars;//Visitors would peer in/And see the tongs not slipping,//Roomsized pebbles having been moved far,//It's like this more/When we speak than when we write;//Loving thus we have been/Loved by ground,//The word being/A box with four of its corners hidden;//Everything else is round.

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