Lyn Hejinian’s My Life: “We have come a long way…”


So, I’m still reading My Life. As I’ve said before, it’s dense but well worth the effort. I just wanted to jabber about the title of one of the poems:

We have come
a long way from
what we actually

The comment that this makes on the writing act is easy for me to sympathize with; it may be the feeling this statement expresses that keeps me from writing much of the time–a sense of distance–it couldn’t be called detachment, really, because it is so emotionally resonant. It is more of a separation, an inability of mine to connect to what was meaningful in my experience, and often a difficulty in connecting to what is meaningful right now.

Of course, it is this distance from the immediacy of our emotions that makes poetry and literature in general a necessary thing. We need something, some work of art, to remind us of that immediacy of experience and sensation: to put it in a bluntly cliche fashion, it makes us feel alive and, more importantly aware of ourselves. In having written a poem, we must have come a long way from what we actually felt, because what we are writing is a new sensation, a new experience that is by definition a secondary experience, but one that does what it can to bring us back to whatever state we were trying to return to, or to take ourselves from one state (possibly a troubling one) to somewhere else that we imagine or have conceived as being better.


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