On May 15th, Litmus partnered with The Poetry Center to celebrate the long-awaited release of Hearing, the second collaboration by Lyn Hejinian and Leslie Scalapino and follow-up to their 1999 collaborative book Sight. For this virtual event, eleven poets joined Lyn in reciting from Hearing. Readers included E. Tracy Grinnell, Michael Cross, Lindsay Choi, Simone White, Eric Falci, Eileen Myles, Renee Gladman, Myung Mi Kim, Judith Goldman, and Tom White. The event concluded with a Q&A, moderated by Litmus’s own Rachael Wilson.
The Poetry Center has made a full recording available to stream online:
Judith Goldman, who wrote the afterword to Hearing, spoke first. She characterized auditory sensation as “the ungrounding ground of a relational ontology, of necessarily singular-plural being elicited into being, in the vulnerable permeability of hearing.”
The reading which followed was structured as a call-and-response: Each reader was accompanied on the Zoom “stage” by a listener, representing the dialogic exchange between Lyn and Leslie from which the text is shaped. Tracy started off the performance with an excerpt penned by Leslie— “In blackness whooing of two owls close to the ear loudly on / bothsides, one’s hearing is not an action on one’s part and there is clear, / black, soft.” The text is both propulsive and reflexive; driven by the momentum of sound and rhythm while consistently held and pondered by the speaker’s attention.
For the post-reading conversation, Rachael brought the participants together to discuss the text and field questions from the audience. Readers spoke about what it felt like to perform from Hearing collectively. Rachael noted that the performance struck her as an enactment of the fact that seeing and hearing “aren’t just faculties that exist in us, they’re faculties that we make, and we make them altogether.” Renee Gladman commented on the experience of “wandering inside of” Lyn and Leslie’s friendship through reading their words, “navigating the mysteries of the private spaces within their exchange.”
From the very start of the event, and repeatedly as the reading and Q&A unfolded, participants recounted memories of time spent with Leslie, noting the importance of Hearing’s release as a tribute to her singular poetic vision, grounded in an immediacy of feeling and a commitment to sociality and friendship as ethics. In her closing remarks, Lyn used the term “many-textured extravaganza”—borrowed from Judith’s afterword—to refer to her relationship with Leslie. She spoke of the consistently energizing challenge that the collaboration posed, a challenge always undergirded by mutual admiration and love: “One of my principal motivations for wanting to do the collaborations with Leslie was because I didn’t always understand her writing…my take on the phenomenal world was very different from hers…I think that her version of the world is a right version of the world, and I think that mine may be right also. They’re even contrary to each other at points, and they also become the same…”