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Hirsohima Suite, by William Heyen

January 8, 2013


The first four lyrics of William Heyen’s Hirsohima Suite,

interesting as they are as they introduce two of the book’s

main characters, are just asymmetrical purchase, but then,

as he has written elsewhere, “the moment of the poem

arrives,” & it arrives here in waves of 15-line meditative

cerebrations that refract, as art must, “the agonies [that]

encandle us.”

Here they are, then: Mrs. Aoyama who, at Point Zero,

has less than no time to realize anything of what happens

when Little Boy detonates; & heroic Mr. Tanimoto who

ferries the living dead toward green across Hiroshima’s

Ota River. To the poet, too, a fish appears–a blunt-headed

witness creature as aura-drenched as any in our literature

–& a bamboo pole with multitudinious eyes, & a stow-

away mouse. & you. & Heyen’s often double-negative

& triple-negative compromised song as the Enola Gay,

doesn’t it never not, accomplishes its design. Its engines

keep revving in the radiated mnemonic memorial water

that passes through the fish’s gills. “Even the Buddha’s

dilemma/ is how not to drown in it as he sips moon

from that water.”

Hasn’t it never not ever become increasingly unclear

–this question flashing among questions of aesthetics–

after his end-of-nature books Pterodactyl Rose &

The Rope & after his obsessive Erika: Poems of the 

Holocaust, Ribbons: The Gulf War, Crazy Horse in

Stillness, Shoah Train, A Poetics of Hiroshima, The

Angel Voices, The Football Corporations & other

of his exiles & reconciliations–that Heyen has become

the most substantial poet of his American generation?

I invite you to allow this remarkable Hiroshima Suite

–which seems to have heard all at once in one non-

linear audition–to intone for you until, within the

“transluminous horror” of August 6, 1945, we are

never not whole again but are, at the same time, in

Robert Frost’s phrases, “beyond confusion.”

 – Edwina Seaver

                                                Rome/ 2012

HS 201x300 Hirsohima Suite, by William Heyen

For more details about the book, and the author, visit Nine Points,

the  publisher’s site, or Amazon.

* This blogger would like to invite serious translators interested in

translating Hiroshima Suite into Japanese to contact me, with

particulars, at