February 24, 2017
On this date this Western American poet and poet of the world was born. I first heard Hirshfield read her work at the Western Literature Association meeting in Sacramento, California in, I believe, 1999. She took the stage right after the rage performance poet Sister Spit and before Gary Snyder. What a program. Years later in Oklahoma I attended a program of Hirshfield by herself reading her work. That’s when I really looked up and started reading her work seriously.
Over the next few weeks I am going to do a series in The Literary Life devoted to Jane Hirshfield’s early poetry taken from conference papers and notes for a piece published by Salem Press.
Besides her work as a poet, Jane Hirshfield has written several major works on the philosophy of poetry, including Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (1997) and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (2015). Nine Gates treats the gates through which readers and writers pass as they learn what poetry brings to life and how it works. Patricia Kirkpatrick considers this volume of essays as addressing “not only ways to read and write, but a way to live.” Ten Windows considers how “Poetry is language that foments revolution of being.” While I am not ready to write about this book, I can say it really is transforming the way I read. The next installment in this series will be February 28.
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