A prolific and celebrated poet, Brenda Hillman is the author of ten collections of poetry, including Extra Hidden Life, among the Days (2018), Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire (2013), Practical Water (2011), Pieces of Air in the Epic (2005), and Cascadia (2001). Her works have netted numerous awards, including the Griffin International Poetry Prize for Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, and the Los Angeles Times Prize for Poetry for Practical Water. Her collection Bright Existence (1993) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Hillman is also the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim Foundation, and the Poetry Society of America, as well as a Pushcart Prize and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award.
After attending Pomona College, Hillman received her MFA at the University of Iowa. She has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, and currently holds the Olivia Filippi Chair in Poetry at Saint Mary’s College. Hillman describes the teaching of poetry as “radical, in the sense of going back to one’s first sensibility, getting you to remember the transformative experiences from childhood and the imagination in the world in relationship to language.…It’s about getting the group and community together into a classroom…and to feed each other.”
Hillman’s verses are raw, eclectic, lyrical, luminous, often challenging form and structure as they tap into rich groundwaters of geology, environmentalism, politics, and spirituality. “It is the artist’s job to make form,” she says. “Not even to make it, but to allow it. Allow form. And all artists have a different relationship to it, and a different philosophy of it.”
Boston Review describes Hillman’s most recent work, the luminous Extra Hidden Life, among the Days, as “an event of compassion and subtle sass, the nevertheless of beauty in a state of shame…Hillman has at last renovated American transcendentalism for the aftermath of America.”
Join us for Brenda Hillman’s lecture, “Finding a Form for ‘Unacceptable’ Emotions” on July 29 at 9 a.m. She will also be reading at Robert Mondavi Winery on August 1. Please visit the Literary Events page for information on how to attend!