for the past decade and a half, Brenda Hillman has patiently and successfully pursued a project whose scope and ambition might derail lesser poets, a tetralogy of volumes that explores each of the cardinal elements — earth, air, water, and fire — as a material stage on which we play out our emotional, political, and environmental machinations.

A quarter of the way through her last entry in the tetralogy, Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, Hillman lays out, in direct and unironic terms, an efficacy for poetry that sums up what she has sought in the previous volumes, which first started appearing in 2001. She writes, in “Ecopoetics Minifesto: A Draft for Angie,” that a poem “is its own action, performing practical miracles: / … to reflect … the contours of emotion/ … to enter into collective bargaining with the political & the social.”...

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