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Given Sugar, Given Salt

4.2 of 5 stars 4.20  ·  rating details  ·  473 ratings  ·  26 reviews
In this luminous and authoritative new collection, Jane Hirshfield presents an ever-deepening and altering comprehension of human existence in poems utterly unique, as William Matthews once wrote of her work, in their "praise of ceaseless mutability as life's central splendor."

In poems complex in meaning yet clear in statement and depiction, Hirshfield explores questions o
Paperback, 96 pages
Published April 2nd 2002 by Harper Perennial (first published 2001)
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Lisa M.
I really love the title of this book: "given sugar, given salt." Say it out loud a few times. I know I did while reading it! It's very rhythmic.

I would like to say that Hirshfield's writing was this rhythmic throughout the book - I was really looking forward to more lines like that. But, in reality, the full length of the line is "As water given sugar sweetens, as given salt grows salty." If your work needs to be shortened before finding a suitable title, that's a sign. And, in reality Hirshfie
Given sugar, given salt, what will we do? What will you do? What will I do? Have we not already been given the sweet, the more complicated, invigorating salt? Who chooses one over the other, and why contrast these two, and not the bitter and the sweet? There is a song by River City Extension called Something Salty, Something Sweet which is about, well, sex of course, but Hirshfield is after something else. She is again illuminating simple objects like leather, rocks, vaccines, ants, a button, pi ...more
I just finished re-reading this collection & wasn't as enamored the 2nd time around. Hirshfield is adept at creating sacred space within in the realm of ordinary, daily activities. The poems seem simplistic upon first reading and I guess they don't really move beyond that for me. I enjoy the way she explores the sanctity of the ordinary, but she doesn't go that extra step, where I think her poems would become extraordinary.
Farzana Marie
A luminous collection.

Some favorite moments:

"...Once, a certain hope came close
and then departed. Passed by me in its familiar
shawl, scented with iodine woodsmoke.

I did not speak to it, nor it to me.
Yet still the habit of warmth traveled
between us, like an apple shared by old friend--

One takes a bite, then the other.
They do this until it is gone."
(From "Apple")

"...As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that o
Elizabeth Gentry
I'm not sure what I think of these poems yet. I like difficult, lyric poetry, but these are sometimes so detached--the images don't have any emotional resonance for me. Perhaps I'm just being lazy about making the connections. I'm perhaps also not crazy about the meta-poem references, or the allusions to a muse.
Some of these poems are a little too focused on the poet, or on themselves, but some of them open up new avenues of thought and reflection, which is the whole reason I read poetry in the first place. A very mixed bag, but overall a worthwhile read.
Aug 12, 2008 C rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
This is the first poetry book I've read in a long time cover to cover. I read it like I read novels. I couldn't wait to get back to it. I loved every poem.
I read this when I am lost. Hirshfield's careful, quiet words lead me back.
"Luminous" is a fitting description of the book. I really enjoyed the way abstract concepts such as "hope" were anthropomorphized and so became striking images that forced new connotations of the words. Her focus on reflexive poems-- poems about themselves-- was innovative and didn't come off as overly intellectual or pretentious to me. They managed to look at why we write, what poetry touches in us, and wider human experiences. Really a pleasure, especially for a randomly selected library book!
Jane Hirshfield has a genuine quality that layers itself transparently in her poetry. Her tone is conversational, seemingly casual, intense in its questioning. I will pick up this book to skim a poem and find my mood completely altered, always for the better. She is honest, and it is her honesty that alarms me, not in it's complexity, but rather the opposite. Her pursuit is honest.
She includes the reader as a member of the conversation, which allows the words to have a sort of freedom. The struc
Rebecca Curtis
Women in Poetry 471R, This poet is amazing, her poems cover many themes but the whole collection centers around the simplicity that life can offer. Want to enrich your life? Read this collection because it is short and brilliant.
Julie Ehlers
Some really great poems in here, both perfectly structured and very moving. I was surprised by how much I related to these, perhaps more than any other collection I've read.
Jul 27, 2010 Mary rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: poetry
Why don’t I like Hirshfield? Probably because of what I’m reading in her “how to write poetry” book. I hate those books, but I’m talking about her poetry. She’s brilliant with her titles. Aside from that, I find her stuff too emotionally simple, too holier-than-thou, too... too everything that makes people hate poets. But she is brilliant with her titles, a department in which I am lacking.
David Sam
Feb 15, 2014 David Sam rated it 4 of 5 stars
Jane Hirshfield has written better collections, but this one still resonates with her revisioning of the most commonplace of things and events into the deeply significant. When so much poetry seemingly is written to exclude the reader, Hirshfield intimately and profoundly includes us.
Dariyn Campbell
A decent book of poetry - prose written by Jane Hirshfield. I enjoyed her book about poetry Nine Gates..and bought this book of her own poetry. She writes about everyday objects, time, and life's mystery. No silly love poems here. A deep observer of hidden meaning in the everyday.
I appreciate the quietness of the pieces in this book, but some were whispered so softly I didn't hear them at all. I predict that if I reread this as a much older, wiser, calmer woman, that I would love it. For now, though it didn't stir in me much of anything.
I don't get the fuss. I've already forgotten virtually every poem. I can't even remember what the poems were about. I know most were about everyday things, which, unless you write them in some unique way, makes them . . . well. . . everyday things.
Kathryn Negard (Just a Hunch Book Blog)
I think this is one of my favorite collections of poetry. Jane Hirshfield's poems are raw and honest, but she paints her emotions with such beauty. I envy her ability to convey one simple feeling with such clarity.
Dom Zuccone
Jane Hirshfield is a poet who like sugar or salt always seems to be there, fundamental, but not simple. Her poems remain with me the way some embraces seem to support us...
These poems reveal a simple and profound depth of attention to the many unfolding dimensions of each moment.
Favorites: "The Envoy," "Red Berries," "Apple," "Red Onion...," and "Elephant Seals..."
Artifice Magazine
Jane Hirshfield. Kind of like she killed the genre; and everyone had to just copy her.
As one of my favorite poets, Hirshfield did not disappoint. Another fine collection.
Jane Hirshfield. Kind of like she killed the genre; and everyone had to just copy her.
read, "The Ladder"...well, read them all!
New favorite poet.
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Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven collections of poetry, including Come Thief (Knopf, August 23, 2011), After (HarperCollins, 2006), which was named a “Best Book of 2006” by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and England’s Financial Times and shortlisted for England’s T.S. Eliot Award; and Given Sugar, Given Salt (finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award); as we ...more
More about Jane Hirshfield...

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“Neither a person entirely broken
nor one entirely whole can speak.

In sorrow, pretend to be fearless. In happiness, tremble.”
“There the beloved red sweater,
bright tangle of necklace, earrings of amber.
Each confirming: I chose these, I.

But habit is different: it chooses.
And we, it's good horse,
opening our mouths at even the sight of the bit.”
More quotes…