Autumn sojourn008
Autumn sojourn
(24 poems and 3 "interruptions")

Brenda Hillman
Em Press
Mill Valley, CA
ISBN 0-963423085-7-8
36 p., 6.25 x 9
Numbered edition of 300

          As it seemed we were nearing an “idea” of marriage,
          I recalled our first autumn in the cottage, especially Fridays
          at sunset, and the image of a troika – a type of small Russian
          carriage – accompanied this.

I am dazzled by Brenda Hillman's great gift.
—Carol Muske

[Brenda Hillman's] poems in their inventiveness, their radical revision of language and form and their deep noticing, invite us to do just that...
Women's Review of Books

Set at a time when the boundaries of things become numinous, Autumn sojourn is Brenda Hillman's wedding gift to her husband, poet Robert Hass. This cycle of twenty-four linked love poems (and three brief “interruptions”) explore the territories of sexuality, space and time in the languages of interior and exterior, at the border between; love comes in from the side. Each poem, a separate twelve-line structure, invents a different form; all are linked by the notion of the erased and eraseable Self, realized by an Other, yet never confident or certain as it rushes toward the mystery of being loved in the body: come in where I’m most alone. The repeated image of the troika adds to the mystery; the troika, that antique, impossible pleasure, moves through the forest at speed/of light, speed of autumn. Travel becomes journey and sojourn when the Self resides and is included by the Other;

                    and though                                /because
          this will be qualified by death
          this body has been afternoons
          where meaning has taken place…

The colors of the book's inks and papers and the endpapers embedded with Japanese maple leaves reflect the autumnal setting. The Japanese maple leaves and Hillman’s “interruptions,” three haiku-like small poems that are inserted into the sequence of poems, allude to Hass's interest in Japanese poetry (he edited The Essential Haiku). Hillman has an alchemical attraction to process that is reflected in these "Interruptions," in the dating of the poems from their initial writing to their final revision ("Second valley," for instance, is dated 1.4.90-10.25.94), in the mutability of such titles as "Some progress," "Autumn continued," "Revised sunset," "Revised dusk," "Unfinished glimmer," and in the Dickensonian optional word/thought choices that Hillman occasionally places in the margins:

                    When we took him into my flesh—                               I/him/our

The unnumbered "Loose poem, " inserted, as its title says, loose within the book, is an alchemist's injunction:

Autumn sojourn009
The answer to Hillman's marginal query is the terracotta St. Armand paper band wrapping the book.

Designed and letterpress printed by Dale Going on a Vandercook SP15 with photopolymer plates of Monotype Spectrum digital type. Hahnemühle Ingres text paper and endpapers embedded with Japanese maple leaves were sewn into handmade St. Armand covers.

Exhibited in The Rounce & Coffin Club Western Book Exhibit (Award of Merit), Book Club of California, San Francisco, April 1996, Beside the Sleeping Maiden, O’Hanlon Center Gallery, Mill Valley, CA; Art & Soul of the Handmade Book, Blue Heron Gallery, Vashon Island, WA; Livres de poètes (femmes) , Berkeley Art Center, June 2000.

Brenda Hillman was born in Tucson, Arizona in 1951. After receiving her B.A. at Pomona College, she attended the University of Iowa, where she received her M.F.A. in 1976. She serves on the faculty of Saint Mary's College in Moraga, California, where she teaches in the undergraduate and graduate programs; she is also a member of the permanent faculties of Napa Valley Writers' Conference and of Squaw Valley Community of Writers. Her seven collections of poetry -- White Dress (1985), Fortress (1989), Death Tractates (1992), Bright Existence (1993), Loose Sugar (1997) and Cascadia (2001), Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005)-- are from Wesleyan University Press; she has also written two chapbooks in addition to Autumn sojournCoffee, 3 A.M. (Penumbra Press, 1982 ) and The Firecage (a+bend press, 2000). Hillman has edited an edition of Emily Dickinson's poetry for Shambhala Publications, and, with Patricia Dienstfrey, has co-edited The Grand Permisson: New Writings on Poetics and Motherhood (2003). Among the awards Hillman has received are Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation.