Pushcart 2015: Lyn Hejinian, “The Unfollowing” (Poetry) from Lana Turner, #6

Jackson Pollock, "Mural" (1943)

Jackson Pollock, “Mural” (1943)


Afloat in a glass-bottom boat, I see into the sea—a miniscule emerald memento
That the strongest social bonds are forged by language doesn’t nullify
           the power that dancing around the puppet effigies of the men
           in power has
On the solemn face of the glinting belly is a button baby
You have to know how to roll on the horizon
Followers follow, possibles possibulate, coruscations consider, blood

An allegory is a depiction of something that can’t be depicted

I confess: I gave up on this one. Fortunately, it’s available online (thank you, Lana Turner Journal) so my ineptitude doesn’t need to dissuade anyone else.

Language poets gave me a lot of trouble in ModPo, including Hejinian, whose “My Life” was included in the curriculum (an excerpt, at least). It’s a poetic biography of sorts, and she’s added to it a few times as the years went by. I love that idea; she writes about “The Rejection of Closure” in an essay available online.

(One way to tell I’m lost is that I start throwing a lot of resources around, hoping no one will notice I’m not really saying anything except, “Oh, here’s this thing that’s maybe relevant… or maybe not.”)

One of the problems I have with Language poets is the non-linearity of text. I can recognize the sounds that lead one to another in the opening lines quoted above, and I love the wordplay, but I have no idea how to understand it as a whole. Is it even meant to be understood as a whole?

So, instead of unfollowing, I have simply failed to follow. But with best wishes, and a trail of bread crumbs for the more intrepid.


3 responses to “Pushcart 2015: Lyn Hejinian, “The Unfollowing” (Poetry) from Lana Turner, #6

  1. This is a puzzle to me Karen. The images are fascinating. I read a few phrases and think “aha” and then meaning slips away or shifts to something else. Yes, I love the sound and wordplay. Maybe we’ll see it on ModPoPlus. Thanks for posting.

    • Hi Val – I’m still at the stage where I need to be led by the hand through a poem like this. I often am quite enchanted with the idea behind such works – but until I know what that idea is, I’m at a loss.

      Not my finest hour, here. If you discover anything (about this poem, or others) thru ModPo, by all means let me know!

      • Hi Karen – I’ve printed the poem out as I find it compelling even though meaning is elusive. I don’t think I will be able to make much sense of it but it would be interesting to read it over a few weeks. I’m inclined to engage with it as a whole first, just to let it sink in.
        I’ll keep a lookout for anything that might help.

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