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Home » Jane Hirshfield » Series: Jane Hirshfield’s Early Poetry: The Lives of the Heart, Part I

Series: Jane Hirshfield’s Early Poetry: The Lives of the Heart, Part I

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March 28, 2017

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In her 1997 collection of poetry Hirshfield develops fully a new imagery of the lion and of the heart. Lions appear with mythic power in such poems as “Knowing Nothing,” “Spell to be said Upon Waking,” “Lion and Angel Dividing the Maple between Them,” and “Each happiness Ringed by Lions.”

In an interview by Katherine Mills, Hirshfield explains her idea with the lions: “the lion is fierceness and beauty; undeniable presence; danger; power; passionate love; transformation. Perhaps, for me. . .lions are the earthly answer to Buddhism.” Thus, in “Knowing Nothing”:

The lion has stalked

the village for a long time.

It does not want the goat,

who stands thin and bleating,

tied to its bit of wood.

 

The goat is not the reason.

The reason is the lion,

whose one desire is to enter-

Not the goat, which is

only the lure. . .

but the one burning life

it has hunted for a long time

disguised as hunger. Disguised as love.

Which is not the reason.

Here the paradox of the lion’s ferocity and its longing to assert itself—of its love—keep us searching but not finding the reason of life experience: “Love is not the reason./Love is the lure.”

jane-hirshfield-2012-448

My next installment in this series will be March 29. Follow The Literary Life blog and share on your social media. Paul Varner

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