Brenda Hillman / In Some Senses of the Word // Ecopoetics Minifesto: A Draft for Angie

Credit/ Robert Hass


            The spirits stand round

   in their bristly ovals. They don’t

really know what to do. A bobcat

            hunts on the oblong

hill, its tan hunger ruffling

   the saturn grasses.  A day

   brings velvet fog to the warm

    ground. The wren with the n

       at the edge of its nest

         makes all sounds eat

from earth while lost things turn

   & circulate. Stuck

in your golden thought, dreaming

  of apocalypse or blood, you call

            to the dead, not sure now.

You call to the body, much closer than

a place. Your brain makes a chant:


            At the edge of the wood

            it will know where to turn

            At the egde of the world

            they might know we’re to turn

            At the edge of the word

            we may know here to turn





                                   (for our coven & for CA Conrad)




Ecopoetics Minifesto: A Draft for Angie


A— At times a poem might enact qualities brought from Romantic poetry, through Baudelaire, to modernism & beyond— freedom of form, expressivity, & content— taking these to a radical intensity, with uncertainty, complexity, contradiction;


B— such a poem employs knowledge from diverse disciplines—

including scientific vocabularies, but it does not privilege only the

human. Research includes rural & urban wilds as well as knowledge from all cultures;

creative forms bring together earth & spirit, rejecting no sources, including the personal;


C—its energies shuttle across binaries: realism/non-realism, rationality/irrationality, refuting received authority;


D— such poem like an animal could graze or hunt in its time, exploring each word, carrying symbolic rhythms, syntax and images directly between the dream and the myth; the imagination does not reject the spirit world;


E— then a poem is its own action, performing practical miracles:

  1. “the miracle of language roots” — to return with lexical adventures
  2. “the miracle of perception”— to honor the senses
  3. “the miracle of nameless feeling”— to reflect the weight of the subjective, the contours of emotion
  4. “the miracle of the social world”— to enter into collective bargaining with the political and the social


F— & though powerless to halt the destruction of bioregions, the poem can be brought away from the computer. The poet can familiarize herself with her bioregion, to engage in activisms in addition to writing, because what cannot be accomplished through art can be addressed in acts of resistance so the planet won’t die of the human.




From Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, with permisson from Wesleyan University Press, 2013. The new  poem, In some Senses of the Word, has previously appeared in Interim Vol.34, Issue 5, 2018– edited by Claudia Keelan



Brenda Hillman is the author of ten collections of poetry: White Dress, Fortress, Death Tractates, Bright Existence, Loose Sugar, Cascadia, Pieces of Air in the Epic, Practical Water, for which she won the LA Times Book Award for Poetry, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire,which received the 2014 Griffin Poetry Prize and the Northern California Book Award for Poetry; and her most recent Extra Hidden Life, Among the Days. In 2016 she was named Academy of American Poets Chancellor. Among other awards Hillman has received are the 2012 Academy of American Poets Fellowship, the 2005 William Carlos Williams Prize for poetry, and Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. (From




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