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Come, Thief

4.15  ·  Rating details ·  495 ratings  ·  56 reviews
A revelatory, indispensable collection of poems from Jane Hirshfield that centers on beauty, time, and the full embrace of an existence that time cannot help but steal from our arms.

Hirshfield is unsurpassed in her ability to sink into a moment’s essence and exchange something of herself with its finite music—and then, in seemingly simple, inevitable words, to deliver tha
Hardcover, 112 pages
Published August 23rd 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Mike Lindgren
Mar 27, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
This is the kind of poetry collection that presents a real problem for me. I can see that these poems are well-crafted, sensitive, perceptive, and thoughtful. I can tell that the author has a good ear for the language and I suspect that she is a deeply kind and spiritual person who is acutely alive to the world around her. I can also predict that I will have completely forgotten about this book approximately seventeen minutes after I finish typing this review. Sigh.
Peycho Kanev
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it

I wanted to give you something—
no stone, clay, bracelet,
no edible leaf could pass through.
Even a molecule’s fragrance by then too large.
Giving had been taken, as you soon would be.
Still, I offered the puffs of air shaped to meaning.
They remained air.
I offered memory on memory,
but what is memory that dies with the fallible inks?
I offered apology, sorrow, longing. I offered anger.
How fine is the mesh of death. You can almost see through it.
I stood on one side of the present, you stood o
Nov 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011
Really enjoyed this. Probably my favorite of Hirshfield's collections (at least of what I've read, which is not all). I'm partial to the very short ones that just glitter like gems. Here are three of my favorites.

If Truth Is the Lure, Humans Are Fishes

Under each station of the real,
another glimmers.
And so the love of false-bottomed drawers
and the salt mines outside Kraków,
going down and down without drowning.
A man harms his wife, his child.
He says, “Here is the reason.”
She says, “Here is the r
Kasey Jueds
Aug 12, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
Jane Hirshfield is my absolute favorite contemporary poet. And this most recent book is both wise and gorgeous. Her work seems to be becoming quieter, more transparent--and at the same time the poems are still mysterious and strange (in the best possible way), startling and beautiful. I love and admire the way they take in both the very small and daily (cats, sweaters, cups of coffee) and the very large (death, silk roads, Anna Karenina, war, torture)... and I especially love the way they don't ...more
Pascale Petit
May 08, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is Jane Hirshfield's best book. I can go back to it again and again and each time find something new, whether it's a fresh way of looking at the world or just sheer admiration of her spare but expansive style and incisive eye. I've also happily reviewed it for Poetry Review. ...more
Well, we didn’t like this at all but possibly the most fun we’ve ever had at a poetry reading. Tiny wrists and puzzles.
World Literature Today
"Although the range of material and features of style are essentially that of her earlier work—that is, not developmentally new—Jane Hirshfield’s latest book of poetry nevertheless offers some of her best poems to date." - Fred Dings, The University of South Carolina

This book was reviewed in the May/June 2012 issue of World Literature Today. You can access the full review by visiting our website:
Jan 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Wonderful new collection of poems by a deft and thoughtful observer of modern life.
Mar 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Oh, Jane, I adore thee.
Apr 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry, 2014
Turns out, I don't think I can fall in love with most of Hirshfield's poetry if this book is any indication. I read some, skimmed some, read first stanzas of some. (Poetry is not meant to be skimmed or read in part, but most just didn't pull me in.) However! The amazing beauty and power of this poem moved the book to 4 stars for me:

This, your life had said, its only pronoun.
Here, your life had said, its only house.
Let, your life had said, its only order.

And did you have a choice in this? You di
Literary Review The
Feb 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Jane Hirshfield
Come, Thief

(New York: Knopf, 2011)

Poet Jane Hirshfield’s new book, Come, Thief, reaches from stillness to the bounding life. As she writes in “The Tongue Says Loneliness,” “this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.” The poems turn in a variety of directions, even at one point, toward Pompeii. Through a variety of forms, Hirshfield asks that readers attend their own worlds to observe both the natural and the manmade in order to learn about humanity. We’re here, sh
Doann Houghton-Alico
Jan 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing
For the most part I love her poetry. I have read this, but know I'll be re-reading various poems in it periodically. Every once in a while I find a line that doesn't work for me. Here's an example of a great line and then ones I don't understand:
From Big-Leaf Maple Standing Over Its Own Reflection:
The members of one Siberian tribe
spoke of good things in metaphor only:
"The god are jealous, but stupid," they kindly explained.

I love that thought! But just before that is a stanza that starts:

"How ma
Jan 25, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
It opens with my favorite poem of the collection, French Horn, which wraps with these lovely lines:

Let others claps.
These two, their ears still ringing, hear nothing.
Not the the shouts of bravo, bravo,
not the timpanic clamor inside their bodies.
As the plum's blossoms do not hear the bee
not taste themselves turned into storable honey
by that sumptuous disturbance.

Nothing that comes ever reaches quite that level of piquancy again, but it is still so laced with little treasures that it would be har
T Fool
Aug 10, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed-books
A great deal more should be said about this collection than this will say. Poems like this are not just 'tiny universes' self-contained in a network of tight coherence. They've taught themselves to be 'tiny Asian universes'.

By which I mean this. To the English language ear, translations of Chinese and Japanese poetry take on the sense that a film gives when periodic frames are deliberately excised and the eye skips and the mind works more to fill in what, naturalistically, should be there. Or
Michael Morris
Jul 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I do like Jane Hirshfield's poems. They are spiritual, but in the grounded, undogmatic sense of mindfulness. They take the stuff of everyday life and direct our inner gaze beyond the surface, and all without overwrought language or impossible to decipher allusions. There is a bit of wry humor in her mostly short, sometimes terse, lines.

There are a handful of pieces in this collection that do not work for me. I got the feeling a few times that I was being hammered with similes or aphorisms. Howev
Sep 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
I'm still figuring out what kinds of poetry I like, but some of this was not what I was looking for. Many of the poems were excellent. Several of the poems early in the volume were a bit disjointed, and I prefer poems that are tighter and less gestured.

I really liked "When Your Life Looks Back," "A Small-Sized Mystery," "The Egg Had Frozen, An Accident," and "All the Difficult Hours and Minutes."
Sep 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Hirshfield is one of my favorite living poets. This collection is inspiring and enlightening. She has a keen command of our language and is a master of imagination. There is a profoundness in every day events and Hirshfield captures it line by line. I will be reading this treasure again and again. Delicious!
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Read for National Poetry Month 2016.

"Think assailable thoughts, or be lonely." (from Sentencings )

I appreciate this poet's ability to show the sacred or spiritual in common emotions and normal human events. That she does so with simple, everyday language, is amazing to me. She shows the transcendent without using transcendent imagery.

Can't wait to read more.
Hirshfield's poems are as open, inviting, observant, and haunting as ever.

Learn more about the poet in her interview on Words With Writers:
Nov 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
"A life is shaped by what it holds or makes. I make these words for what they can't replace." What a voice! What insight! I adored this entire collection. Poetry! I will be reading more from Hirshfield as quickly as I can get my hands on it. YES!!! ...more
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry

These poems are a hike in the mountains with high peaks like "French Horn" and "When Your Life Looks Back." All are meditations,sparer than I am accustomed to in her work; they invite re-reading. I am especially drawn to "The Pear," 'Washing Doorknobs," and "Seawater Stiffens Cloth."
Jan 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
More difficult than earlier books of her work. I'm going to have to read through these poems again. Not necessarily a bad thing, but a surprise. Much work on aging and grief. As one might expect. Very inspiring -- makes me want to write my own poems, with not all work does these days. ...more
Jan 03, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
This book is at once dense and sparse, deep and thick. Each poem captivates with its rich images of passing through, of inviting the thief inside, of welcoming the changes that come with loss, love, and life.
Sep 02, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I'm not writing here - but if you're interested, go to Kasey Jued's review of this book. I'd like to just quote her review in full. ...more
David Anthony Sam
Jul 25, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Certainly one of Jane Hirshfield's finest collections---how she shows the everyday to be both evanescent and numinous. How she makes the tragic and comic in our lives from simple words and images. ...more
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
"A day is vast.
Until noon.
Then it's over."

this book is great, jane hirshfield is the best.
Jul 01, 2019 rated it liked it
Jane Hirshfield definitely has a lovely sense of style – in spite of this, many of her poems simply don't speak to me, because I can't make sense of the atmosphere she is trying to create. Many of them left me with a vague, questioning feeling, as if grasping at some meaning out of my reach. That said, I did like a few of them a lot!

The Dark Hour
The dark hour came
in the night and purred by my ear.
Outside, in rain,
the plush of the mosses stood higher.
Hour without end, without measure.
It opens th
Sep 24, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 18tbr, poetry
Ms Hirshfield’s poems about love, friendship, aging, grief, and nature are full of observations, questions, and paradoxes, all infused with Eastern philosophy and literature. At their best, the questions lead to a resolution or a bigger question, and the paradoxes lead to insight. In one of my favorites, “For the Lobaria, Usnea, Witches Hair, Map Lichen, Beard Lichen, Ground Lichen, Shield Lichen”, the poet’s surprising analogies and observations “make it new”.

“And still the poetry of ancient S
Pamela Scott

I’ve read a decent amount of the author’s poetry in various anthologies over the years. I’ve never had the pleasure of reading a full collection. I enjoyed the poems on offer here. They are well-written; make good use of imagery and are engaging at times. The main issue I had is that while at times very nice, none of the poem had much depth. I flicked past some I found a little dull. A great number of the poems are very vague and left me feeling puzzled as
Jamie Gogocha
Apr 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
These just didn't really speak to me. There are poems in this collection that hit me, but most of them were just pretty words.

It might be unfair because I just finished a collection that hit me a lot harder than I was expecting. Perhaps I'll give this one another go later.
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Jane Hirshfield is the author of nine collections of poetry, including the forthcoming Ledger (Knopf, March 2020), The Beauty (Knopf, 2015), longlisted for the National Book Award, 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. ...more

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“Everything has two endings-
a horse, a piece of string, a phone call.

Before a life, air.
And after.

As silence is not silence, but a limit of hearing.”
“as some strings, untouched,
sound when no one is speaking.

So it was when love slipped inside us.”
More quotes…