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Powers of PossibilityExperimental American Writing since the 1960s$
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Alex Houen

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609291

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609291.001.0001

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Making a Person Possible

Making a Person Possible

(p.193) 5 Making a Person Possible
Powers of Possibility

Lyn Hejinian

Language Poetry

Oxford University Press

For Lyn Hejinian, relating social and poetic potentials is largely a matter of rethinking ethically what a ‘person’ is: ‘The recognition of these possibilities constitutes one's first exercise of possibility, and on that depends one's realization that oneself is possible.’ This chapter analyses how Hejinian explores such realization in a series of works, including My Life (1980, rev. 1987) and the poetry volumes she wrote in the USSR during the last throes of the Cold War. Discussion then moves to how in subsequent writings she develops a politics of individual ‘Constructivism’. In Happily (2000), for example, improvising poetic lines is presented as a way of improvising experience such that a person (as writer or reader) becomes an ‘Eventuality: a possible event’ with the poetry. How Hejinian links such improvisations to estrangement is considered in relation to A Border Comedy (2001). The chapter concludes with a reading of The Fatalist (2003), in which Hejinian links estrangement, fate, and fatalities (including those of the 11 September attacks) while reconciling amor fati with amor possibilis.

Keywords:   potentiality, performativity, postmodernism, realism, avant‐garde, affects, comedy, estrangement, Cold War, Russian formalism

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