Thursday at City Lights

The Book of A Thousand Eyes by Lyn Hejinian

Written over the course of two decades, The Book of a Thousand Eyes was begun as an homage to Scheherazade, the heroine of The Arabian Nightswho, through her nightly tale-telling, saved her culture and her own life by teaching a powerful and murderous ruler to abandon cruelty in favor of wisdom and benevolence. Hejinian’s book is a compendium of “night works”—lullabies, bedtime stories, insomniac lyrics, nonsensical mumblings, fairy tales, attempts to understand at day’s end some of the day’s events, dream narratives, erotic or occasionally bawdy ditties, etc. The poems explore and play with languages of diverse stages of consciousness and realms of imagination. Though they may not be redemptive in effect, the diverse works that comprise The Book of a Thousand Eyes argue for the possibilities of a merry, pained, celebratory, mournful, stubborn commitment to life.

Lyn Hejinian is a poet, essayist, teacher, and translator. She is the author of several books of poetry including Saga/ Circus, A Border Comedy(Granary Books, 2001), Slowly and The Beginner (both published by Tuumba Press, 2002), and The Fatalist (Omnidawn, 2003). The University of California Press published a collection of her essays entitled The Language of Inquiry in 2000. Hejinian is also actively involved in collaboratively created works, the most recent examples of which include a major collection of poems by Hejinian and Jack Collom titled Situations, Sings (Adventures in Poetry, 2008). Other collaborative projects include a work entitled The Eye of Enduring undertaken with the painter Diane Andrews Hall and exhibited in 1996; a composition entitled Qúê Trân with music by John Zorn and text by Hejinian; two mixed media books (The Traveler and the Hilland the Hill and The Lake) created with the painter Emilie Clark; the award-winning experimental documentary film Letters Not About Love, directed by Jacki Ochs; and The Grand Piano: An Experiment in Collective Autobiography, co-written with nine other poets. Translations of her work have been published in Denmark, France, Spain, Japan, Italy, Russia, Sweden, China, Serbia, Holland, China, and Finland. She is the recipient of a Writing Fellowship from the California Arts Council, a grant from the Poetry Fund, and a Translation Fellowship (for her Russian translations) from the National Endowment for the Arts; she received an Award for Independent Literature from the Soviet literary organization “Poetic Function” in Leningrad in 1989. She has traveled and lectured extensively in Russia as well as Europe, and Description (1990) and Xenia (1994), two volumes of her translations from the work of the contemporary Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, have been published by Sun and Moon Press. Since 1976 Hejinian has been the editor of Tuumba Press and from 1981 to 1999 she was the co- editor (with Barrett Watten) of Poetics Journal. She is also the co-director (with Travis Ortiz) of Atelos, a literary project commissioning
and publishing cross-genre work by poets. She is currently serving as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. She teaches in the English Department at the University of California, Berkeley, and is the Chair of the UC-Berkeley Solidarity Alliance, an activist coalition of union representatives, workers, staff, students, and faculty fighting to maintain the accessibility and affordability of public higher education in California.

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