The three works of poetry that constitute Tribunal were written in the current context of seemingly ubiquitous warfare and the specter of unabashed neo-fascism, ethno-nationalism, and—especially in the United States—reassertions of white supremacy. As renowned poet Lyn Hejinian recounts, the inspiration for Tribunal gradually took shape over the course of almost a decade in the collaborative work she has done to fight neoliberal policies that dismantle the public sphere through actions that include privatizing the commons, busting unions, and imposing a corporate, profiteering model on a range of institutions including public higher education. Hejinian explores a broad range of responses to our deeply troubling historical period in Tribunal’s three collections. These poems express an emotional scope that includes fury, sadness, and even, at times, something very close to pity for our humanity, perpetually unable to avoid its own penchant for cruelty. Hejinian is the rare poet who can bring to the page a rich, complex rendering of how mutually exclusive emotions can exist simultaneously. We lose safety and surety, but we gain a wider lens on contemporary crises from her sometimes lacerating, sometimes intensely beautiful lyric verse. It’s only in such an artistic and emotional landscape that readers, thinkers, artists, workers, and all comrades against injustice can manage to keep inventing, imagining, and hoping. Throughout these crises, the poet returns to language as a meaningful space in which to grapple with a seemingly endless cycle of conflict. While the works can be read as expressions of protest or dissent, they powerfully convey an argument for artmaking itself—and a turn to its affirmation of life.
About the Author
Lyn Hejinian is the John F. Hotchkis Professor of English at the University of California, Berkeley.
"Organized as a three-part trial, the book articulates a timely political consciousness: one of war, fascism, and a 'not necessarily melancholy deactivation of will.'"
— Publishers Weekly
"Since long before 'disruption' became the buzzword du jour of the business world, Lyn Hejinian has been an active practitioner of a disruptive poetics, challenging and destabilizing the very corporate and political structures that now make claims about their own power to disrupt. Hejinian’s most recent collection, composed of three long poems generated over the past decade, is both the product of a contemporary moment marked by national unrest and the global rise of fascism . . . . Here is a powerful, timeless entry into a lifelong body of work that sees within the building blocks of language a genuine potential for resistance . . . . This necessary volume identifies and fulfils our continuous and once again emergent need for radical destabilization in poetry and in politics, all the while insisting, with tenderness and optimism, that the act of reordering our world by reordering our language is what makes us—and keeps us—alive."
— American Poets