The Wide Road

by Carla Harryman & Lyn Hejinian

What would have happened had Thelma and Louise not driven off the cliff but stayed on the road? In Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian’s picaresque novella, friendship lives on to follow eros through a polymorphic landscape where their fearless, inquisitive “we” encounters “hunger in two places at once.”

The Wide Road is a collaborative investigation of the female body, friendship, writing, community, activism, travel and the nature and possibility of human thinking.

Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian, two of the most honored innovators of language, began writing The Wide Road in 1991. Over the following twenty-years, the co-writing occurred in turn by letters, by walking, in cabins, together and apart, and finally together again. The reader of this original and major work will find that it is no longer possible to distinguish who wrote what. Instead, one finds a joyful new feminist voice breaking out new possibilities for the future of writing.

The event of the making-writing of this book is now matched by the event of the making-book object of the book, for which the artist Nancy Blum drew two botanical panels, the fruit and the flower of the strawberry tree. HR Hegnauer, in discussion with editor, Rachel Levitsky and the authors, came up with two designs, and in celebration of the book’s multiple origins, Belladonna* Collaborative printed both!

COMMENTARY: Rebecca Brown
A Narrow Road and Wide: a response to The Wide Road by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian

…Three centuries after Basho walked his narrow road, our women went together on a wide one and the things they saw and did and said they saw and did and said and give to us. If Basho was an old man on a measured walk through mountains, temples woods, then Harryman/Hejinian are explosive, vital, two-as-one but greater than the parts. Beloved friends, companions, buoyant weights that hold each other up and help each other ride. They balance and bounce, and hold and swing (the way you swung when you were young, a girl with arms out straight and holding tight to someone else, around, around, ‘til dizzy, spinning, gleeful, radiant, glad) and the air that moves around them moves in us.

Their wide road is fe+male (male plus) holding multitudes, inviting, flirting, welcoming. A girl gang (not a mean one — a nice one) sharing lipstick, chocolate, happy hours, tips (who’s hot and who is not, whom to avoid and whom to seek and how). Delicious secrets whispered late in a bar with cigarettes and booze. Condolences and confidences: help….

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My Sister/Mysteries, Exegetes’ Delight

A thin, flexible wand segmented by dehiscences arcs subtly across the upper part of the cover of my book. I mean, the book that Rachel Levitsky sent me and hence is mine; not that I wrote it. It’s The Wide Road, by Carla Harryman and Lyn Hejinian, two poetry megababe superstar coolio ladies. At first this wand is a bone, knuckled, burled and jointed. Or is it, or is it…

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The Wide Road is a plethora, o’erbrimming with peregrinations, penseés, epistles, and erotic passion: “Our very abundance has made us unsafe.” It’s cinematic like a long dream you make yourself stay asleep for to keep experiencing it, and no sooner does it settle into some groove when it switches, looks back at itself, nestles inside its own omphalos. “What a strange pastoral landscape our picaresque buddy-being wanders in.” The companionable explorations of these dual fine minds call everything into question. The chemical excitement of that question state lights up ganglia hitherto uncharged. The Wide Road reminds me of haibun in how it expaaaands into prose and contracts into verse: it inverts & subverts Basho. The road might be made of Astroturf onto which are rolled out a number of female infants, born, terrifyingly enough, with all their (our) eggs. “We feel sickened by biology.” From there, we just have to crawl along in fullest sensuality (“rouging droplets shimmy on our skin”), discovering things as we go with our mouths, our vaginas, our minds. The Wide Road creates/records the journey, in the way that “love opens life’s warm seams.” It is a kind of spell: “To live in a disenchanted world is to live at a dead end. In the Wide Road ‘we’ finds enchantments.” All I want to do is read this book in a fit of languor.

harrymanCarla Harryman is the author of twelve books of poetry, prose plays, and essays, most recently the Essay Press publication Adorno’s Noise, two experimental novels, Gardener of Stars (2001) and The Words: after Carl Sandburg’s Rootabaga Stories and Jean-Paul Sartre (1999). Harryman teaches in the Department of English at Eastern Michigan University and is on the faculty of the Milton Avery School of the Arts Graduate Program at Bard College.

Carla Harryman is also the author of Open Box (IMPROVISATIONS) (Belladonna*, 2007).

hejinianLyn Hejinian was born in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1941. Poet, essayist, and translator, she is also the author or co-author of several books of poetry, including Saga/Circus (Omnidawn Publishing, 2008), The Fatalist (2003), My Life in the Nineties (Shark, 2003), and A Border Comedy (2001). Hejinian has worked on a number of collaborative projects with painters, musicians and film makers. She teaches poetics at University of California, Berkeley, and has lectured in Russia and around Europe. She has received grants and awards from the California Arts Council, the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Fund, the National Endowment of the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She lives in Berkeley, California.

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Carla Harryman & Jon Raskin

Composer and improviser Jon Raskin and cross-genre poet Carla Harryman collaborate in bringing together music and poetry, using Harryman’s texts as scores for musical interpretation and speaking voices. Jon initiated the recording project while reading Carla’s Open Box: Improvisations, a work written between November 2002 and 2003 after she turned the news off to listen to the music and the sounds of her local world in psychic protest against the news media’s representations of American government’s scaremongering and push to war under false premises. Jon responded to the book by initiating a series of live and studio performances that gave him the materials to develop the piece.