In a Few Minutes Before Later (Wesleyan Poetry)
" Hillman's] work is fierce but loving, risk-taking, and beautiful." --Harvard Review
Finalist for the Four Quartets Prize, given by Poetry Society of America, 2023
An iconoclastic ecopoet who has led the way for many young and emerging artists, Brenda Hillman continues to re-cast innovative poetic forms as instruments for tracking human and non-human experiences. At times the poet deploys short dialogues, meditations or trance techniques as means of rendering inner states; other times she uses narrative, documentary or scientific materials to record daily events during a time of pandemic, planetary crisis, political and racial turmoil. Hillman proposes that poetry offers courage even in times of existential peril; her work represents what is most necessary and fresh in American poetry.
During an enchantment in the life
Do you love a living person
absolutely? Tell them now.
In a half-unwieldy life you made, under
the hyaline sky, while the dead
drank from zigzag pools nearby,
if they saved you in your wild incapacities,
in timing of the world's harm
in a little pettiness in your own heart while others took
your madrigals in shreds to a tribunal,
when others said you should feel grateful
to be minimally adequate for the world's
triple exposure or some tired committee...
The ones who love us, how do they
break through our defenses?
We're tired today. Come back later.
Their baffled voices melting our wax walls
with a candle, the ones who understand
what being is--the glowing, the broken,
the wheels, the brave ones--
they have their courage,
you have yours;
when you meet the one you love,
it is so rare. When you meet
the one who loves you, it is extremely rare.