Shawn Sorensen's Reviews > After: Poems

After by Jane Hirshfield
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Jul 31, 10

bookshelves: poetry

Few poetry titles are as companionable as this one. When I need to write, to journal, to have an important talk with someone or to relax on my own, it's always good to have Hirshfield around. These are poems as spare in their style as they are capacious in meaning and compassion.

A theme Hirshfield particularly does well - and which buttresses her mindful, meditative aura - is that all of us are doing the best we can, yet can always take a step back, look at ourselves, and do better. If it happens, it happens. It's better to listen to your crazy friend than try to change him/her, for example. If they change, it's from their own words leading to their own actions, an empowering trajectory. And that crazy person might be you.

Meanwhile, impermanence and suffering are always with us.

From the short poem "The Dead Do Not Want Us Dead":

The dead do not want us dead;
such petty errors are left for the living.
Nor do they want our mourning.
No gift to them - not rage, not weeping.
Return one of them, any one of them, to the earth,
and look: such foolish skipping,
such telling of bad jokes, such feasting!
Even a cucumber, even a single anise seed: feasting.


The ending of the poem speaks volumes about Hirshfield's style - the vast potential of a cucumber to do big and small things, to symbolize so much in our minds.

What slightly detracts from Hirshfield's work is its sameness. There isn't quite a large enough venue of details or variety of styles, so the overall quality of the work can feel a little too didactic. And it doesn't help that she uses the same metaphors of many other poets - the stream, the mountain, the horse. Too many metaphors takes away the vivacity that is day-to-day living.

I will keep Hirshfield on my NOOK and read it whenever I don't have a good acquaintance around. These simple lines draw you in, connect all of us through our timeless concerns and reveal something different every reading.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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message 1: by Sage (new)

Sage Cohen Ah, lovely. And I share your sentiments. Hirshfield is one of my very favorite companions!


message 2: by Philip (last edited Aug 18, 2010 07:13PM) (new)

Philip And this one. - you sure read a lot of poetry. : )


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