poem index

sign up to receive a new poem-a-day in your inbox

About this poet

Brenda Hillman was born in Tucson, Arizona, on March 17, 1951. She was educated at Pomona College and received her MFA at the University of Iowa. Her upbringing in a deeply religious Baptist family surfaces in many of her poems, especially those that appear in Loose Sugar (Wesleyan University Press, 1997) and the California mission poems of Cascadia (Wesleyan University Press, 2001).

Hillman has authored several full-length collections, the most recent of which is Extra Hidden Life, among the Days(Wesleyan University Press, 2018). Her poems have also been collected in three chapbooks The Firecage (A+Bend Press, 2000); Autumn Sojourn (Em Press, 1995); and Coffee, 3 A.M. (The Penumbra Press, 1982).

Her work has been called eclectic, mercurial, sensuous, and luminescent. In an interview in Rain Taxi, Hillman said "It is impossible to put boundaries on your words, even if you make a poem. Each word is a maze. So you are full of desire to make a memorable thing and have the form be very dictated by some way that it has to be. But the poem itself is going to undo that intention. It's almost like you're knitting a sweater and something is unraveling it on the other end."

Hillman is also the coeditor, along with Patricia Dienstfrey, of The Grand Permisson: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (Wesleyan University Press, 2003), and the editor of a collection of Emily Dickinson's poems published by Shambhala Press in 1995.

Her honors include awards and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Poetry Society of America, along with a Bay Area Book Reviewer's Award, a Pushcart Prize, and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award. Hillman received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2012. She was elected to the American Academy of Arts And Sciences in 2017 and was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2016.

Hillman has taught at the Napa Valley Writer’s Conference and the University of California, Berkeley. She holds the Olivia Filippi Chair in Poetry at St. Mary's College in Moraga, California, and lives in the Bay Area with her husband, the poet Robert Hass.


Bibliography

Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018)
Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (Wesleyan University Press, 2013)
Practical Water (Wesleyan University Press, 2011)
Pieces of Air in the Epic (Wesleyan University Press, 2005)
Cascadia (Wesleyan University Press, 2001)
Loose Sugar (Wesleyan University Press, 1997)
Bright Existence (Wesleyan University Press, 1993)
Death Tractates (Wesleyan University Press, 1992)
Fortress (Wesleyan University Press, 1989)
White Dress (Wesleyan University Press, 1985)

Crypto-animist Introvert Activism

a haibun

Every week for about a decade some of us at school have been standing at lunch hour to protest drones, racism, state killing, the death of species & so on. We stand under a live oak while people walk by on their way to lunch. We hold up the signs. It’s an absurd situation & it changes nothing.  

Sometimes the good doctor Ali brings a boom box with Bob Marley & we dance ineptly on the pavement. The changes fall together. Positive & negative fall together as Bob Marley sustains us near the tree. Cesar Vallejo dances as a flea on the back of a squirrel. Blake & Baraka dance as lithophilic microbes inside the rock. We have no proof that they don’t. The science moths dance in the live oak & go about their work of being powdery. The protest is absurd but i admire these forms of absurdity. When the revolution comes, the polite white mothers in the Moraga Safeway will still be shopping for sugary cereals & barbeque sauce. When the time comes, some will rise & some will dance & some will lay our bodies down. 

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days by Brenda Hillman. Copyright ©  2018 by Brenda Hillman. Used with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

From Extra Hidden Life, among the Days by Brenda Hillman. Copyright ©  2018 by Brenda Hillman. Used with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman

Brenda Hillman is the author of ten poetry collections, including Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (Wesleyan University Press, 2018). She received the Academy of American Poets Fellowship in 2012 and currently serves as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

by this poet

poem

When the danger of fire has passed,
  the children (even when wanting to text)
form letters with pencils,
   tracing gray skin around
the unsayable while geese honk              ~
     overhead oñ-oñ-oñ- in their                    ~ ~
wedge of funny adults. The children

poem
A left margin watches the sea floor approach
 
It takes 30 million years 
It is the first lover
 
More saints     for Augustine's mother

A girl in red shorts shakes Kafka's
The Trial free of some sand
 
A left margin watches the watcher from Dover
 
After the twentieth century     these cliffs
Looked
poem
The bride tree puts down its roots
below the phyla. It is there
when we die & when we are born,
middle & upper branches reaching
the planet heart by the billions
during a revolution we don’t see.

Quarks & leptons are cooling
on their infant stems, spinning the spinning
brain of matter, fled to