Read My Life by Lyn Hejinian Online


Recognized today as one of the great works of contemporary American literature, My Life is at once poetic autobiography, personal narrative, a woman’s fiction, and an ongoing dialogue with the poet and her experience. Upon its first publication by Sun & Moon Press (the edition reprinted here) the publication Library Journal described the book as one that "is an intriguRecognized today as one of the great works of contemporary American literature, My Life is at once poetic autobiography, personal narrative, a woman’s fiction, and an ongoing dialogue with the poet and her experience. Upon its first publication by Sun & Moon Press (the edition reprinted here) the publication Library Journal described the book as one that "is an intriguing journey that both illuminates and perplexes, teases and challenges, as it reveals an innovative artist at work."Lyn Hejinian is the author of The Cell, The Cold of Poetry, Writing Is an Aid to Memory and A Border Comedy. She lives in Berkeley and teaches at the University of California....

Title : My Life
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781931243339
Format Type : Paperback
Number of Pages : 165 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

My Life Reviews

  • MJ Nicholls
    2019-03-20 04:19

    An excellent “poetic autobiography,” told in lyrical, repetitious, elliptical prose, slowly passing through a life with baffling clarity, bamboozling starkness and confuddling honesty. The chapter headings usually reappear embedded in the subsequent chapter text, hinting at mathematical structures or arrangements between chapters (or even sentences?). As a non-poet and rare poetry reader, I’m rarely impressed by this sort of high modernist plate-spinning trickery, unless it’s purely prose, but this book impresses by its emphasis on the word over the world (thanks Gass), which Hejinian’s bourgeois book-driven upbringing would have inculcated in her from the off. All that matters is what the artist committed. The rest are citations and footnotes.

  • Sean
    2019-02-24 06:15

    If reality is trying to express itself in words it is certainly taking the long way around.In 1978 at age 37 Lyn Hejinian first built this autobiographical structure in 37 sections of 37 sentences, with each section running parallel to the specific year of her life. Eight years later Sun & Moon published a second edition for which Hejinian added 8 new sections and 8 new sentences to each previous section. Hejinian is primarily a poet and My Life reads like an extended work of prose poetry, for the focus here remains almost exclusively at sentence level, with word choice and juxtaposition being paramount. Amidst the presumed memory fragments and repeated anchor phrases, pithy statements rise from the text: The fear of 'losing' ideas objectifies knowledge.A person is a bit of space that has gotten itself in moments.One begins as a student but becomes a friend of clouds.At just over 100 pages one could call this a short book, and yet the density of Hejinian's prose defies that characterization. It's as if each sentence contains a story, many of which will remain mysteries due to their opacity. Still, even floundering as a reader in the waters of this text is pleasant, for the muscularity of Hejinian's sentences demand an attentive audience and one can certainly still marvel without a requirement of full comprehension.

  • Anthony
    2019-03-10 09:28

    "it seemed we had hardly begun and we were already there"a wonderful autobiography in the form of a prose-poem. like nabokov's autobiography, it is as much concerned with the nature of memory itself as with the story of the writer's life. apparently there are 2 editions of this work, the first written at age 37 in 37 segments of 37 sentences each (this is the edition i got my hands on) and a second edition rewritten at age 45 with 45 segments of 45 sentences each. this expansion suggests that this is probably an ongoing life-project and i would love so much to read it if it gets up to, say, 74. hejinian is often associated with the language poets but this work is much more accessible than anything i've read in that genre. recommended!

  • Steve Morrison
    2019-02-28 08:23

    A beautiful autobiographical prose-poem, and, like any life, a continuous work in progress and revision. The original book, written when Hejinian was 37 years old, contains 37 chapters of 37 sentences each. The revised edition (which I read) was written when she was 45, and contains 45 chapters of 45 sentences each. So not only are there 8 new chapters, but there are also 8 new sentences added within each of the original 37 chapters. A wonderful way to depict the way life expands forward and backward at the same time, and written with luminously evocative wordcraft.Such a lovely and odd book. I love the representations of revisionary memory and the idea of life as a continual work in progress. A favorite.

  • Michael Farrell
    2019-03-03 06:30

    once i was photocopying this for a class, but there was a sheet of labels in the machine, so i had a page of labels with text from my life - i put them on my current exercise book for writing poems, which i took to the us in 2004. i hardly wrote any good poems tho - & i was sick! but i had a dream run of meeting people, including lyn. unf i seem to have lost my copy of this book

  • Cole
    2019-03-06 03:22

    Many people, in my experience, will come up against this book (because you don't merely read it--you come up against it) and say that they find it impenetrable or heavy-handed. For me, it is exciting and intriguing and the perfect overlapping of prose poem and autobiography. For those who crave linear narrative, you can definitely find it here if you want it. For dorks like me who love to wrestle with literature and walk away a little bit frustrated, this is a brilliant work.

  • Chris Schaeffer
    2019-03-17 08:40

    I really like Hejinian but this book is hampered by a comfortable middle-class sense of continuity that ughhh arghh I can't even finish it, she HAD HORSES, SHE HAD HORSES. If you're tacky enough to have had a happy childhood, leave it out of your books. I can't believe this predates 'The Guard.' Don't give your children horses.

  • Heather
    2019-03-26 03:28

    This is one of my favorite literary treats that I return to when I want perspective, when I want to be lifted out of the linear and escape into freewritten bliss. It feels like a stream-of-consciousness Woolfian-Kundera daydream.

  • Jessey Nickells
    2019-02-27 04:36

    A truly unique autobiography in which each sentence stands as its own poem without detracting from the book as a whole. I could read this book once a year and love it for something new each time.

  • Meredith
    2019-03-14 03:24

    "Only fragments are accurate."Like a stereoscope of images upon images, creating scenes strange with dissonance, or scenes at ease with coming home.What else could I possibly say?

  • Renee
    2019-03-05 10:43

    The most stunning piece of LANGUAGE poetry I've ever read. The incredibly dense ideas about the fabrications of words and the fabrications of identity are made all the more profound through parataxis and repetition. I honestly spent hours highlighting and breaking this poem apart. It's a genuine work of art. Hopefully she releases a third edition of the poem.I honestly think that people who dislike this book really don't understand the context of LANGUAGE poetry or what the whole genius point of this "autobiography" is. So if I can say anything to anyone before they decide to pick up this poem, do a little research first.

  • vi macdonald
    2019-03-14 09:39

    I don't have the words to adequately describe what Lyn Hejinian has achieved here.I am speechless. Her writing has nourished me.

  • Mike Lindgren
    2019-03-26 09:23

    It's difficult to make an evaluation of this book. Perhaps the way to approach it, at least right now, is through a simple list of pros and cons:PRO:• Unique• Evocative• Poetically charged• UnsettlingCON:• Impenetrable• Self-absorbed• Willfully opaque• NonsensicalCf. review of Susan Wheeler, Assorted Poems. Both are overtly "poetic" documents that force the reader to make judgments regarding the value of highly associative / subjective verse.

  • Canova
    2019-03-27 08:37

    I had to read this book for a poetry class; at first it struck me as nonsensical and too unique for its own good. However, I must say that this is a book that will stay with me forever. I can keep reading it over and over, each time with a different reading. This is a text that is "open" in the sense that it acknowledges so much more than the words with which it is written. A beautiful and poetic exploration of self, memory, process, and language...

  • Bunnyhoopla
    2019-02-26 11:26

    I love the sheer imagistic and synesthetic beauty of the first sentence, "A moment yellow, just as four years later, when my father returned home from the war, the moment of greeting him, as he stood at the bottom of the stairs, younger, thinner than when he had left, was purple--though moments are no longer so colored."

  • Jackie
    2019-03-27 07:44

    this little booklet is so brilliant that i feel the intense urge to underline everything...or place a remarkable indication dot on the ends of each beginning and i do for only certain portions of other works i read. these are the ways in which i dream of writing...

  • Christine
    2019-03-24 03:21

    if you don't like postmodernism, you'll be annoyed. if you do like postmodernism, you'll fall in love. this little, litte, little book is amazing, but it is not for the faint of heart or mind.

  • Emily
    2019-03-10 09:38

    Hejinian is a master poet. You must go int this collection with zero expectations, she is a Language Poet and writes emphasizing the readers role in interpreting and bringing meaning to what she has written.

  • Karen
    2019-03-12 11:36

    Each sentence is a dissertation. Thought provoking, inspiring, and a resource of meditation.

  • Joyful Grapes
    2019-03-22 05:19


  • James
    2019-02-24 03:28

    "'As for we who 'love to be astonished,'" I was!

  • Christopher
    2019-03-18 06:29

    “To some extent, each sentence has to be the whole story.”"What it is it is."

  • Christopher
    2019-03-22 08:37

    Up there with the absolute best poetry I've ever read. This is top class. No review necessary. Just read it.

  • e
    2019-03-04 06:38

    As for we who "love to be astonished," this book does not merely suffice, it defines.

  • Kim
    2019-03-22 11:36

    Absolutely brilliant. This is maybe my favorite book ever.

  • A.
    2019-03-21 11:31

    Surrealist poetry is a new thing for me and I love the poetic images that set me in a new direction, but my thirst for narrative and vicarious exeperience goes unsatisfied and I'm left wanting more.

  • Zech Soakai
    2019-03-16 11:17

    Definitely a book for people who love literary theory.

  • Nancy
    2019-02-28 07:16

    Poet Lyn Hejinian writes a different kind of memoir, a book-length series of prose-poems that form a lyric memoir that is non-sequential, filled with memories, of course, and images too but, above all, language. I have long been fascinated with the genre, but would never have read this memoir if I hadn't been introduced to it in my Coursera class on Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, which just finished up and which was amazing. These online courses are free, at least for now! I have signed up for several more, and am especially looking forward to The Ancient Greeks taught by a prof at Wesleyan University andArchaeology's Dirty Little Secrets taught by a prof at Brown University. But back to Hejinian. She was born in 1941, 16 years before me, but so many of her memories of American girlhood resonate for me, including sipping Shirley Temples while wearing Mary Janes and this: "Every child wanted to be blackboard monitor in order to clap the chalk erasers at the end of the day" and this: "Dashing up out of the dark basement pursued by the humid fear," and this: "Math is like a joke I just don't get, whose punchline isn't funny." Alternating with this: "The sudden brief early morning breeze, the first indication of a day's palpability, stays high in the trees, while flashing silver and green the leaves flutter, a bird sweeps from one branch to another, the indistinct shadows lift off the crumpled weeds, smoke rises form the gravel quarry--all this is metonymy" and this: "A glass snail was set among real camellias in a glass bowl upon the table."

  • Sarah
    2019-03-22 03:42

    I almost have to call this book (or series of short poem-prose-essays) amazing. How did I hear about it? It must have had some connection to Gertrude Stein (Hejinian's writing is very obviously Steinian), and poetics and experimental language. All of which are really grabbing my attention this year, in my 47th year. Sample sentence: "Please, I imagine a foreign language to be like a thin stick over a creek, one must run on it with great speed so it won't have time to break and without stopping for a second so one won't lose one's balance--even to pause to blink an eye can snap the stick or topple the speaker." ("My Life," (1987) Lyn Hejinian, p. 158)

  • Alison Lafferty
    2019-03-27 07:42

    So I don't know how I read the addendum to this book without reading the actual book? #badreadinghabits2016 Anyway this poet was my professor this semester and this book was recommended to me by one of her grad students, and I'm so glad I picked it up during finals week. If you ever need short, pithy yet lyrical passages that border on narrative but pull back at the edge, please start here. Parts of this were so wonderful and weirdly relatable that I still think about certain phrases even days later, which doesn't normally happen to me when I read something quickly.