Runner-up for the Northern California Book Award for Poetry (2009)
Practical Water is, like Brenda Hillman's previous two books, Cascadia and Pieces of Air in the Epic, both an elemental meditation and an ecopoetics; this time her subject is water: Taoist water, baptismal water, water from the muses' fountains, the practical waters of hydrology from which we draw our being—and the stilled water in a glass in a Senate chamber. Not since Allen Ginsberg tried to levitate the Pentagon has American poetry seen the likes of the hallucinatory wit and moral clarity that Hillman brings to Washington in her poems about Congressional Hearings on the Iraq War. Here also—because it is about many kinds of power—is a sequence of twinned lyrics for the moon, governess of tides and night vision, for visible and invisible faces. Violence and the common world, fact and dream, science and magic, intuition and perception are reconfigured as the poet explores matters of spirit in political life and earthly fate. If it is time to weep by the waters of Babylon, it is also time to touch water's living currents. No one is reimagining the possibilities of lyric poetry with more inventiveness; this is masterful work by one of our finest poets.
About the Author
"Graced with Robert Duncan's tutelary spirit, each poem that Hillman writes creates its own experimental configuration . . . She writes as if the lyric poem had a political calling."—Marjorie Welish, citation for William Carlos Williams Award for Pieces of Air in the Epic
"How does one engage in antiwar and environmental activism while living a comfortable Bay Area life? How can one be an effective voice for change as a writer of experimental, oblique lyrics, often influenced by Gnosticism and other esoteric practices? Hillman meets these challenges with good humor and ingenuityI admire Hillman's determination to bring such unlikely influences together."—Jeff Gundy, The Georgia Review
"Were it not such a pun, one would be tempted to call this collection literally breathtaking; Hillman has pursued an ambitious program with remarkably fine-tuned language."—Library Journal, about Pieces of Air in the Epic
"Here is a woman alive to the contradictions and obscenities of modern American power, who can notice the smallest details of life and rejoice in them, who sanctifies the waters of life even as she watches them being destroyed by the alleged progress of capital, and who thereby becomes a contemporary Allen Ginsberg and Denise Levertov, updated and refined through her own unique sensibility and sensitivity to rhythm and paradox."—Tikkun
"Hillman's Practical Water is moving and exciting."—Janet McCann, Magill's Literary Annual
"If history is the public and collective, Hillman is historically engaged She is herself a 'resister.' Section titles—'Of International Waters,' 'Of Communal Authority,' 'Of the Months When you Work & the Months When you Can't,' and 'Of Local Creeks & Aquaducts'—identify her work as respectively internationalist, socially-committed, conscientious, and eco-poetic. She writes out of and to the society in which she's located."—Fiona Sampson, Poetry
"A collection as wise as it is finely crafted, Brenda Hillman's Practical Water is a remarkable addition to this accomplished poet's body of work."—Kristina Marie Darling, The Kenyon Review
"Were it not such a pun, one would be tempted to call this collection literally breathtaking; Hillman has pursued an ambitious program with remarkably fine-tuned language."
—Library Journal, about Pieces of Air in the Epic
Other Titles by Brenda Hillman
Other Titles from Wesleyan Poetry Series
Other Titles in POETRY / General