Poet & Essayist Lyn Hejinian, 1941–2012

BY Ramona Naddaff | April 4, 2024 | Profiles

Lyn Hejinian was one of the first faculty to teach an Art of Writing seminar. The theme of her seminar was “Collaboration.” We are forever grateful to have collaborated with such an extraordinary teacher, scholar, writer, and person.

The two quotations below are excerpted from a 2020 interview with Lyn Hejinian by the Department of English as part of the 150 Years of Women at Berkeley series.

On Writing as a Child:

“I set the typewriter on a desk in my bedroom and began to write. Or, rather, to type. Pounding the keys and seeing sentences emerge on the page, I felt important and powerful. I was, in effect, escaping the limitations of gender. I could imagine myself as anyone and make it “real” (in print).

I wrote a radio play featuring characters from a then popular children’s radio show, “Bobby Benson and the B-Bar-B Riders,” a western whose main character was an orphan lad named Bobby Benson. I imagined myself as Bobby Benson and in the play “I” lived through a vast melodrama. I behaved heroically, of course.

I laugh at this now, but having the typewriter — the tool of my trade — gave me a sense of having a trade, that of a writer.”

On Writing as a Rebel:

“By the time I entered college, I was imagining myself as a rebel, an iconoclast. Perhaps I even really was one, but, if so, it was a life — a rebellion — in my mind and imagination.

I had discovered that one could live a wild life in writing while abiding by at least the most basic social mores. Indeed, I wanted to behave myself socially, precisely so as not to get into time-consuming trouble, which would rob me of time for reading and writing …”