Bright Existence by Brenda Hillman

By Brenda Hillman

The poems in Brenda Hillman's new assortment, a spouse quantity to her fresh loss of life Tratates, supply a dynamic imaginative and prescient of a universe based at the tensions among mild and darkish, life and non-existence, female and male, spirit and topic. educated partially via Gnostic thoughts of the separate soul looking for its divine origins ("spirit held by means of matter"). This dualistic imaginative and prescient is solid in modern phrases and seeks solution of those tensions via attractiveness.

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The poem conveys the sense that language is the power and glory of God on earth. In the absence of Christ's presence language is 'the word made flesh'; it is 'Cohesive as the Spirit' (as in 'Was not') and 'Has not the power to die'. Only the advent, the condescension of Christ from the privileges of superior rank and dignity, could displace the power of the word. However, Dickinson's sense of the language based self is not a complacent one. Dickinson was also crucially aware of the limits of language, as in Poem 407: 'It is the Ultimate of Talk - / The Impotence to Tell - ' and Poem 1668: But when I cannot make the Force, Nor mould it into Word, I know it is a sign That new Dilemma be From mathematics further off Than from Eternity.

It was not Frost, for on my Flesh I felt Siroccos - crawl Nor Fire - for just my Marble feet Could keep a Chancel, cool - And yet, it tasted, like them all, The Figures I have seen Set orderly, for Burial, Reminded me, of mineAs if my life were shaven, And fitted to a frame, And could not breathe without a key, And 'twas like Midnight, some When everything that ticked - has stopped And Space stares all around Or Grisly frosts - first Autumn morns, Repeal the Beating Ground But, most, like Chaos - Stopless - cool Without a Chance, or Spar Or even a Report of Land To justify - Despair.

For Dickinson the order imposed by language is never fixed, final and unalterable; time and again she underlines the temporary and provisional nature of all our articulations. 'We see - Comparatively - ' she writes in Poem 534; 'I see - New Englandly -' and 'The Queen, discerns like me - / Provincially' (285). One is always a 'Term between' (721). The mind must constantly adjust its meanings and articulations because experience constantly precipitates 'internal difference where the Meanings are'.

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