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Series: Jane Hirshfield’s Early Poetry: A Short Biography

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March 7, 2017


In this fourth installment of my series on Jane Hirshfield let me give you a few details of her life. She was born in New York, New York to Robert and Harriet Hirshfield. Her father was a clothing manufacturer and her mother was a secretary. From her childhood Hirshfield wanted to be a writer. After her first book was published her mother showed Hirshfield a note written on large lined paper from the first grade in which the young Hirshfield had written “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” Her first poem was published in 1973 after she had just graduated magna cum laude from Princeton University with an independent major in creative writing and literature in translation. She was part of Princeton’s first graduating class that included women. Despite early publication, she withdrew from the writing life for eight years as she entered study at the San Francisco Zen Center. In 1979 she was lay-ordained in the lineage of Soto Zen and left the life of withdrawal. Since that time, Hirshfield has devoted her life to writing, translation, and editing, earning numerous awards and grants. From 1991 to 1998 she served as lecturer in creative writing at the University of San Francisco and served as visiting associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley in 1995. Since 1999 she has served on the core M.F.A. faculty of Bennington College. In 2000 she was appointed Elliston Visiting Poetry Professor at the University of Cincinnati.

My next installment in this series will be March 9. Follow The Literary Life blog and share on your social media. Paul Varner



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