I feel this impulse too — I want the place to be some place you can go to and recognize, but also have the place be inner, other and very abstract. What happens to that bird when you do that? BH: Well, I make hopeful conversations with my darlings, my dead darlings and my living darlings. I was sort of hoping to write what a contemporary woman can now say about this mythic sense of reality, of water or a river.
Max Ritvo Poetry Series: Featuring Brenda Hillman
It was very much a local, fragment-collage about the state of dams and rivers. Is there a difference when you name? What happens when you name all these people and tell them not to throw themselves into the water? What happens when you call your dead darlings, your dead female darlings, your dead sisters?
BH: There are several ways of calling them back in — I mean, in a literary sense, the character is the poet and multiple speakers, a character and a group of characters, when you have pronouns like that. So the Brenda speaking in that poem is really in relation to saving the idea of literary women from annihilation. The I among you. Or the you , the various yous. BH: Oh yeah. The hope that your ancestors will ballast, will hold, consciousness for you. GM: When an animist world is mentioned in Seasonal Works , you can recognize it latent in the first three books, but it fully manifests the world of Seasonal Works.
It feels like the poems are doing that. How does that work with the Blake and Keats? You thank Blake and Keats first in your dedication list. Why them first on that list? Blake brings it from his crazy Protestant renegade strangeness. It felt like a big salvation at one point. BH: Yeah, not only in childhood, but all the way along. But my sense that you can live with an animated presence — you know what I mean?
What was it like reveling in the inextricability of the elements while you were writing through the projects of the books?
BH: The thing that I can liken it to more, most usefully, is like having a crush in 10th grade. Except I had four crushes. On the four elements. Ok, now I shall turn my attention to … it just seemed more fun. They blend in these books. There are probably more of all the elements in the fire book.
My little assignment to myself was to get the element in each poem for each book. GM: The fact that there are more of the elements in the fire book coincides with this great moment when the elements become seasons. BH: Joyce would call them epiphanies, where something just flashes. Bob [Hass] and I were taking a little trip down the coast about five years ago. So noticing the micro-seasons became a kind of environmentally interesting thing, but also, I guess, something about, how to say this — so we were driving. We saw some pumpkins out in the field. I thought about what they were thinking, the pumpkins.
It just bloomed like some great, some weird magical thing. It seemed like, oh, this consciousness is so outside my own. GM: What did your sense of seasonal time, circular, seasonal time, do for you with the idea of writing serially? She was weaving and undoing it not only to create something, but to avoid doing a lot of other things. In a weaving the threads keep coming back, in part because we live in time, obviously. You are visiting these places and then refreshing them with each insight and with sensual detail and with each thought.
BH: Go deep enough into the weirdness of existence and the perception of it. There is never anything without something else. If you accompany perception with emotion, you get extra gradations, tentacles, things in conflict with each other. When I was thinking about the pumpkins, as a site of existence, I thought they have these really orderly eyes inside of them, with the integuments just holding them in a particular order. It is a pleasure to transfer the weight of your intelligence to a tangible place other than yourself, instead of where you are with your misery or, you know, whatever compulsion for something you have to do.
This sort of detail fills me with pleasure. Why does thinking about the materiality of this world, the weirdness of this world, push you to increasingly insist on working with words as things to be heard and things to be touched, things to be seen? They may all be mixed. Like many writers, I am in love with the physical features of the alphabet and with words.
Or numbers, or something like that? Ok, looking at the bricks right there. All Ls. The mystical sense of language and the emanation of language and what is here in daily life seem to me really in conversation with each other all the time. But yeah, language going back and forth between this symbolic state and the material state seems to me a really cool spark across this chasm.
Being a writer is not necessarily a moral thing to do. Almost always. What happens to that? Poetry will not bring about the revolution that is needed now. But when people finally rise up, they may have poems in their pockets. I mean just as a strategy of being, of keeping you loose and keeping you from going crazy. BH: For both. Poets are sort of sharpening this sense of engagement with sound or with this meaning space that symbolic language gives. Secret Knowledge p. Holding Her p. Near Jenner p. Visiting Creature p.
Seated Bride p. The Panel p. Writing Her p. Yellow Tractate pp. Reverse Seeing p. Possible Companion p. A Dwelling p. Losing Her p. Split Tractate pp.
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Random Order p. An Entity p. Winged One p. He delayed to heal, that He might be able to raise to life. But what was the message sent by his sisters? Lord, behold, he whom You love is sick. They did not say, Come; for the intimation was all that was needed for one who loved. They did not venture to say, Come and heal him: they ventured not to say, Command there, and it shall be done here. And why not so with them, if on these very grounds the centurion's faith was commended? For he said, I am not worthy that You should enter under my roof; but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed.
It is enough that You know ; for You are not one that loves and forsakes. But says some one, How could a sinner be represented by Lazarus, and be so loved by the Lord? Let him listen to Him, when He says, I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.
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But when Jesus heard [that], He said, This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God , that the Son of God may be glorified. Such a glorifying of Himself did not add to His dignity, but benefited us. Hence He says, is not unto death, because even that death itself was not unto death, but rather unto the working of a miracle whereby men might be led to faith in Christ , and so escape the real death.
And mark how the Lord, as it were indirectly, called Himself God , for the sake of some who deny that the Son is God. For there are heretics who make such a denial, that the Son of God is God. Let them hearken here: This sickness, He says, is not unto death, but for the glory of God. For what glory? For the glory of what God? Hear what follows: That the Son of God may be glorified.
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This sickness, therefore, He says, is not unto death, but for the glory of God , that the Son of God maybe glorified thereby. By what? By that sickness. Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister Mary, and Lazarus. The one sick, the others sad, all of them beloved: but He who loved them was both the Saviour of the sick, nay more, the Raiser of the dead and the Comforter of the sad.
When He heard therefore that he was sick, He abode then two days still in the same place. They sent Him word: He abode where He was: and the time ran on till four days were completed. And not in vain, were it only that perhaps, nay that certainly, even the very number of days has some sacramental significance.
Then after that He says again to His disciples , Let us go into Judea : where He had been all but stoned , and from which He had apparently departed for the very purpose to escape being stoned. For as man He departed; but returned as if in forgetfulness of all infirmity, to show His power. Let us go, He said, into Judea. And now see how the disciples were terrified at His words. The disciples say unto Him, Master, the Jews of late sought to stone You, and You are going there again?
Jesus answered, Are there not twelve hours in the day? What does such an answer mean? And the Lord, Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not, because he sees the light of this world: but if he walk in the night, he stumbles, because there is no light in him. He spoke indeed of the day, but to our understanding as if it were still the night. Let us call upon the Day to chase away the night, and illuminate our hearts with the light.
For what did the Lord mean? As far as I can judge, and as the height and depth of His meaning breaks into light, He wished to argue down their doubting and unbelief. For they wished by their counsel to keep the Lord from death, who had come to die, to save themselves from death. In a similar way also, in another passage, St. Peter, who loved the Lord, but did not yet fully understand the reason of His coming, was afraid of His dying, and so displeased the Life, to wit, the Lord Himself; for when He was intimating to the disciples what He was about to suffer at Jerusalem at the hands of the Jews , Peter made reply among the rest, and said, Far be it from You, Lord; pity Yourself: this shall not be unto You.
And at once the Lord replied, Get behind me, Satan : for you savor not the things that be of God , but those that be of men. And yet a little before, in confessing the Son of God , he had merited commendation: for he heard the words, Blessed are you, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven. But of what then? For flesh and blood has not revealed it unto you, but my Father who is in heaven. See, this is how you are blessed, not from anything that is your own, but from that which is mine.
Not that I am the Father , but that all things which the Father has are mine. But if his blessedness came from the Lord's own working, from whose [working] came he to be Satan? He there tells us: for He assigned the reason of such blessedness, when He said, Flesh and blood has not revealed this unto you, but my Father who is in heaven: that is the cause of your blessedness. But that I said, Get behind me, Satan , hear also its cause. For you savor not the things that be of God , but those that be of men.
Let no one then flatter himself: in that which is natural to himself he is Satan , in that which is of God he is blessed. For all that is of his own, whence comes it, but from his sin? Put away the sin , which is your own. Righteousness, He says, belongs unto me. For what have you that thou did not receive?
Tractate Sanhedrin: Chapter 6
If any man walk in the day, he stumbles not. Follow me, if you would not stumble: give not counsel to me, from whom you ought to receive it. To what, then, refer the words, Are there not twelve hours in the day? Just that to point Himself out as the day, He made choice of twelve disciples.
If I am the day, He says, and you the hours, is it for the hours to give counsel to the day? The day is followed by the hours, not the hours by the day. If these, then, were the hours, what in such a reckoning was Judas? Was he also among the twelve hours?
Poetry Reading Robert Hass and Brenda Hillman with Local Opener Leah March
If he was an hour, he had light; and if he had light, how was the Day betrayed by him to death? But the Lord, in so speaking, foresaw, not Judas himself, but his successor. For Judas, when he fell, was succeeded by Matthias, and the duodenary number preserved. Let the hours then attend upon the Day, let them preach the Day, be made known and illuminated by the Day, and by the preaching of the hours may the world believe in the Day.
And so in a summary way it was just this that He said: Follow me, if you would not stumble. And after that He says unto them, Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep.
It was true what He said. To his sisters he was dead, to the Lord he was asleep. He was dead to men , who could not raise him again; but the Lord aroused him with as great ease from the tomb as one arouses a sleeper from his bed. Hence it was in reference to His own power that He spoke of him as sleeping: for others also, who are dead, are frequently spoken of in Scripture as sleeping; as when the apostle says, But I would not have you to be ignorant , brethren, concerning those who are asleep, that you sorrow not, even as others who have no hope.
And so, all the dead are sleeping, both good and bad. But just as, in the case of those who sleep and waken day by day, there is a great difference as to what they severally see in their sleep: some experience pleasant dreams; others, dreams so frightful that the waking are afraid to fall asleep for fear of their recurrence: so every individual sleeps and wakens in circumstances peculiar to himself. And there is a difference as to the kind of custody one may be placed in, who is afterwards to be taken before the judge. For the kind of custody in which men are placed depends on the merits of the case: some are required to be guarded by lictors, an office humane and mild, and becoming a citizen; others are given up to subordinates; some, again, are sent to prison : and in the prison itself all are not thrust together into its lowest dungeons, but dealt with in proportion to the merits and superior gravity of the charges.
As, then, there are different kinds of custody among those engaged in official life, so there are different kinds of custody for the dead, and differing merits in those who rise again. The beggar was taken into custody, so was the rich man: but the one into Abraham's bosom; the other, where he thirsted, and found not a drop of water. Therefore, to make this the occasion of instructing your Charity, all souls have, when they quit this world, their different receptions.
The good have joy ; the evil , torments. But when the resurrection takes place, both the joy of the good will be fuller and the torments of the wicked heavier, when they shall be tormented in the body. The holy patriarchs, prophets , apostles , martyrs , and good believers , have been received into peace; but all of them have still in the end to receive the fulfillment of the divine promises; for they have been promised also the resurrection of the flesh, the destruction of death, and eternal life with the angels.
This we have all to receive together; for the rest, which is given immediately after death, every one, if worthy of it, receives when he dies. The patriarchs first received it — think only from what they rest; the prophets afterwards; more recently the apostles ; still more lately the holy martyrs , and day by day the good and faithful. Thus some have now been in that rest for long, some not so long; others for fewer years, and others whose entrance therein is still less than recent.
But when they shall wake from this sleep, they shall all together receive the fulfillment of the promise. Our friend Lazarus sleeps; but I go, that I may awake him out of sleep. Then said His disciples — according to their understanding they replied — Lord, if he sleep, he shall do well. For the sleep of the sick is usually a sign of returning health. Howbeit Jesus spoke of his death, but they thought that He spoke of the taking of rest in sleep.
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Then said Jesus unto them plainly, — for He said somewhat obscurely, He sleeps; — therefore He said plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe. I even know that he is dead, and I was not there: for he had been reported not as dead, but sick.
But what could remain hid from Him who had created it, and into whose hands the soul of the dying man had departed? This is why He said, I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent ye may believe ; that they might now begin to wonder that the Lord could assert his death, which He had neither seen nor heard of.
For here we ought specially to bear in mind that as yet the disciples themselves, who already believed in Him, had their faith built up by miracles : not that a faith , utterly wanting till then, might begin to exist; but that what had previously come into being might be increased; although He made use of such an expression as if only then they would begin to believe. For He said not, I am glad for your sakes, that your faith may be increased or confirmed; but, that you may believe ; which is to be understood as meaning, that your faith may be fuller and more vigorous.
Nevertheless, let us go unto him. Then said Thomas, who is called Didymus, unto his fellow disciples , Let us also go, that we may die with Him. Therefore Jesus came, and found that he had [lain] in the grave four days already. Much might be said of the four days, according to the wont of the obscure passages of Scripture, which bear as many senses as there is diversity of those who understand them. Let us express also our opinion of what is meant by one four days dead. For as in the former case of the blind man we understand in a way the human race , so in the case of this dead man many perhaps are also to be understood; for one thing may be signified by different figures.
When a man is born, he is born already in a state of death; for he inherits sin from Adam. Hence the apostle says: By one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin ; and so that passed upon all men , wherein all have sinned. Thereafter he grows, and begins to approach the years of reason that he may know the law of nature, which every one has had implanted in his heart: What you would not have done to yourself, do not to another. Is this learned from the pages of a book, and not in a measure legible in our very nature?
Have you any desire to be robbed? Certainly not. See here, then, the law in your heart: What you are unwilling to suffer, be unwilling to do. This law also is transgressed by men; and here, then, we have the second day of death. The law was also divinely given through Moses , the servant of God ; and therein it is said, You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery ; you shall not bear false witness ; honor your father and mother; you shall not covet your neighbor's property; you shall not covet your neighbor's wife.
What remains? The gospel also comes, the kingdom of heaven is preached, Christ is everywhere published; He threatens hell , He promises eternal life; and that also is despised. Men transgress the gospel; and this is the fourth day of death. Now he deservedly stinks. But is mercy to be denied to such?
God forbid; for to raise such also from the dead, the Lord thinks it not unfitting to come.