brenda hillman

Returning this summer to the Poetry Faculty is the beloved poet, Brenda Hillman. Considered one of contemporary American poetry’s most innovative writers, she’s published more than ten collections of poetry, including her most recent collection, Extra Hidden Life, amongst the Days (read more about this collection in Poetry Director Iris Jamahl Dunkle’s review).

Hillman’s poetry, like Gertrude Stein’s, asks both language and reader to stretch and expand to contain meanings beyond the ordinary, beyond what seems possible.  Amongst her award-winning work is a tetralogy about the classical life elements of air, water, earth, and fire beginning with the breakthrough collection that addresses “earth”, Cascadia (2001). Named for the ancient landform that preceded present-day California, this collection explored the complicated ecological and historical history of California.  Hillman followed this with her work Pieces of Air in the Epic (2007) which considered the element of air –its many meanings including its roll as the life-giving medium we breathe. The third collection in this series, Practical Water (2011) addressed the element of water – from baptismal water, to a stilled water in a glass in a Senate chamber where congressional Hearings on the Iraq War are taking place. In her final collection in this series, Hillman takes on one of the most complicated elements to those living in the West, fire, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013).

Hillman has been on the faculty of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference since 1987.She holds the Olivia Filippi Chair in Poetry at St. Mary’s College, in Moraga, California.

Read a poem by Brenda Hillman: “Little Furnace” from Bright Existence (1993)

Essential Viewing: Last year, Hillman was the Kapnick Distinguished Writer-in-Residence at the University of Virginia where she gave three lectures on poetics.  Her first, entitled, “Metaphor and Metonymy” can be viewed here: