I was born on the downhill side, late in the year, in early December, in the light’s heavy dip and hesitation, when the old peoples prayed for beginning in the snow-salted fields and scattered bitterness of corn stalks; but though I came fatly of that gaunt race, though it was a different end and today that day, the fields untracked by supplicants, the corncribs many, and full, still I carry their disappointed dead buried in my body, and am the outspoken child of the silent generations of my cells— for O, they call with the old voices, in a millennium length of words, in the thousand year cries of the dead, that their lean voices, lost to these fields, may be gathered up and justified in me.
—Bill Hedrington, ca. 1968
This the Bill Hedrington web site, containing his collected poems.
Since this site was created, Bill's work been published as a book, On the Downhill Side, by Shambling Gate Press. It can be ordered through Book Clearing House or other online sources.
The poems can also be downloaded in PDF format.
They are in two groups: On the Downhill Side, a collection made by Bill himself, and a collection of poems from other sources, assembled from Bill’s papers after his death. The latter group is arranged, to the extent possible, in chronological order.
Bill was never satisfied with his work, and re-wrote it over and over. And he kept all his drafts, including tiny four-times-folded slips of paper that seem to have spent some time in a hip pocket, on a motorcycle, in the rain. All this material was made available for this edition through the great kindness of Darlene Knudtson, Bill’s sister, and her husband Ed, with whom Bill had left a number of his files, and to whom his papers were sent after his death. On the Downhill Side was put together by Bill in 1970. It's as good a text as we can have for the poems it contains, though there are some notes and drafts of further revisions to poems in this collection. These seem rather tentative and have not been used here.
The remaining poems, collected in “poems from other sources,” include everything from juvenilia to works-in-progress; some student work, handed in and then apparently forgotten by Bill, has not been included. The texts of the poems in this collection are more problematic, since many exist in multiple versions and these versions are often not datable. The versions presented here are what seem to be the latest complete texts. As with Downhill Side, no attempt has been made to incorporate scraps and fragments jotted down here and there, even though some of these may be later than the complete texts. Readers who have in their possession versions of any of the poems in either of these collections are asked to contact Michael Smith, particularly if these versions are later than the spring of 1970.
The site is the work of Bruce Cleary, Jonathan Lundell, and Michael Smith. Technical comments should be sent to the latter. Any of us would be grateful to receive anecdotes, reminiscences, comments and reactions, and what-have-you, to add to the site. Visitors should also note that the poems have been through a couple of generations of transcription, and we would be grateful to hear about any apparent typos.
The photograph of Bill was provided by David Tekler.
The poems are copyright 2002 by Darlene Knudtson. All rights to reproduce them in any way are reserved, except that persons visiting this Web site are permitted to make copies, either on paper or in electronic form, for their own personal use only.