Jessie's Reviews > Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry

Nine Gates by Jane Hirshfield
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's review
Jun 16, 10

bookshelves: nonfiction, for-teaching, poetry
Read in June, 2010

Poetry is spiritual practice for Hirshfield, which I love, and, for the most part, she’s careful with how she handles that spiritual language, but I find her too sincere at times, didactic or prescriptive (always a risk in a book on craft, I suppose), so I like her descriptive moments best, her explication of poems, true illumination, especially of the Japanese poet Komachi she has helped translate.

“The Question of Originality” and “Facing the Lion” are my favorite essays here—very sharp (she is a poet in her prose), and she integrates an energizing mish-mash of thinkers and writers from multiple “registers”; I like her notes on translation, very particular and full of love and respect for Japanese poetry – tanka and haiku have much more nuance for me now! Regarding Japanese poetry, she writes: “The brief poem murmurs, ‘Just this, just this,’ opening the reader to the sharpness of each blade of grass, on whose sword-tip the universe flowers.” 86

A few other gems:

18 “A new image transforms, but its rightness is rooted in what already exists—the senses’ witness.”

34 “The paradox of originality is that it points both to the newly appearing and to a continuance free of time and says within itself that they are one.”

163 “To live fully and willingly in the world of the living is more brave even than going open-eyed toward death."
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