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First Fire, Then Birds: Obsessionals, H. L. Hix

About the Author

poet H.L. HixH. L. Hix has published an anthology, Wild and Whirling Words: A Poetic Conversation (2004), and six books of poetry and literary criticism with Etruscan, including Shadows of Houses (2005), Chromatic (2006), God Bless: A Political/Poetic Discourse (2007), Legible Heavens (2008), Incident Light (2009), and As Easy As Lying: Essays on Poetry (2002).  He has two more books forthcoming from Etruscan, First Fire, Then Birds (2010) and Lines of Inquiry (2011). His seven other books include Spirits Hovering Over the Ashes: Legacies of Postmodern Theory (State University of New York Press, 1995) and translations of Estonian and Lithuanian poetry.

In addition to having been a finalist for the National Book Award for Chromatic, his awards include the T. S. Eliot Prize, the Peregrine Smith Award, and fellowships from the NEA, the Kansas Arts Commission, and the Missouri Arts Council. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin, taught at Kansas City Art Institute, and was an administrator at The Cleveland Institute of Art, before accepting his current position as professor in the Creative Writing MFA at the University of Wyoming. He has been a visiting professor at the University of Texas at Austin and at Shanghai University.

Find out more about H.L. Hix on his author page.

First Fire, Then Birds by H.L. Hix
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H. L. Hix’s poetry collections have not been merely collections.  Each fulfills a vision that creates a whole greater than the sum of its parts: each poem contributes to a sequence, each sequence talks to another.  For readers already acquainted with Hix’s ambitions, then, the subtitle “Obsessionals” (instead of “Selected Poems”) will need no explanation: from collections that don’t just collect, what sense would it make for a selection just to select?

Hix’s poems were already at work rewriting and recontextualizing the language of others, language from sources as various as fragments of Pythagoras, apocryphal gospels, and speeches of George W. Bush.  In First Fire, Then Birds (2010), Hix keeps at the task, recontextualizing his own poems, creating a revision (seeing anew) and recomposition (putting together afresh) of an already distinctive body of work.

The subtitle “Obsessionals” also registers that, though Hix has fashioned First Fire, Then Birds mostly from his poetry, enough prose finds a place here to signal that this book aims to integrate all of Hix’s explorations: one piece is brought forward, for instance, from his essay collection Spirits Hovering Over the Ashes (State University of New York Press, 1995), whose title, itself a remaking of Wittgensteinian language, presages this book’s title, First Fire, Then Birds.  Readers already aware of this essential writer’s work will find here its fullest development to date; readers new to Hix will be welcomed into the most comprehensive introduction available.

Publication date: November 2010

“Nobody now at work in American verse combines [H. L. Hix's] attraction to programmatic Big Projects (narrative, philosophical, or procedure driven) with his supple interest in older tones and forms.” — Stephen Burt, the Believer, Feb. 2011

First Fire, Then Birds earns a ‘starred’ review in Publisher’s Weekly.

One of “The 17 Most Important Poetry Books of Fall 2010″ in The Huffington Post