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Lay Back the Darkness: Poems

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  99 ratings  ·  7 reviews
Edward Hirsch’s sixth collection is a descent into the darkness of middle age, narrated with exacting tenderness. He explores the boundaries of human fallibility both in candid personal poems, such as the title piece—a plea for his father, a victim of Alzheimer’s wandering the hallway at night—and in his passionate encounters with classic poetic texts, as when Dante’s ...more
Paperback, 88 pages
Published September 14th 2004 by Knopf (first published 2003)
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Apr 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
I haven't read poetry with any regularity for more than 20 years, when I read a lot of it. I picked up a few slim contemporary volumes from my branch library's paltry collection this week, focusing on names I knew and poets I had neglected. Hirsch's book was the first of these I read (other than dipping into a bit of Yeats -- not a contemporary, so he doesn't really count). I expected to read a few pages, find it tiresome, and put it aside confirmed in my usual feeling about poetry in recent ...more
Christopher Pokorny
Jan 19, 2020 rated it liked it
I picked this up on a whim at a used bookstore in West Texas. The title piqued my interest...”Lay back the darkness.” Hirsch writes about his life with reflections on spirituality, Judaism, family and the Holocaust. Perhaps the most striking periscope to me was the following:

“Someone wrote in tiny letters in pencil
‘I don’t believe God forgot us’
but someone else scrawled in thick letters in pen
‘I don’t believe’
‘God forgot us”
Rachel Coyne
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Two Suitcases of Children's Drawings from Terezin, 1942~1944 in incredible, unforgettable art
Feb 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Deceptively heavy considering the slim
stature deceiving as a memory of past
love lost long ago for good reasons lost
even longer than the inspiring texts
Oct 05, 2014 rated it liked it
I was drawn to the title poem, and a few others that mention his father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s disease and this poet does not disappoint. The book jacket talks about these poems as a “descent into the darkness of middle age,” but I didn’t feel that at all. Yes, it is not joyful, exuberant poetry, but it is genuine and powerful. He writes of becoming a mystic, of praising mysteries, of knowing “vast love” and recalling his father’s childhood. He takes characters from Greek myths and retells ...more
Jun 06, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry
2.5. A few poems were really beautiful, but overall, I just couldn't connect with these. And I felt like a lot of them needed some good editing -- he tends towards last lines that sum up the poem, etc.
Oct 22, 2013 rated it liked it
The gem here is "Dates"
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Edward Hirsch is a celebrated poet and peerless advocate for poetry. He was born in Chicago in 1950—his accent makes it impossible for him to hide his origins—and educated at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a Ph.D. in Folklore. His devotion to poetry is lifelong.He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim ...more