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Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry

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A Gate Enables passage between what is inside and what is outside, and the connection poetry forges between inner and outer lives is the fundamental theme of these nine essays.

Nine Gates begins with a close examination of the roots of poetic craft in "the mind of concentration" and concludes by exploring the writer's role in creating a sense of community that is open, inclusive and able to bind the individual and the whole in a way that allows each full self-expression. in between, Nine Gates illumines the nature of originality, translation, the various strategies by which meaning unfolds itself in language, poetry's roots in oral memory and the importance of the shadow to good art.

A person who enters completely into the experience of a poem is initiated into a deeper intimacy with life. Delving into the nature of poetry, Jane Hirshfield also writes on the nature of the human mind, perception and experience. Nine Gates is about the underpinnings of poetic craft, but it is also about a way of being alive in the world -- alertly, musically, intelligently, passionately, permeably.

In part a primer for the general reader, Nine Gates is also a manual for the working writer, with each "gate" exploring particular strategies of language and thought that allow a poem to convey meaning and emotion with clarity and force. Above all, Nine Gates is an insightful guide to the way the mind of poetry awakens our fundamental consciousness of what can be known when a person is most fully alive.

240 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1997

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About the author

Jane Hirshfield

58 books530 followers
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.S. Eliot Award; and Given Sugar, Given Salt (finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award); as well as two now-classic books of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. She has also edited and co-translated three books collecting the work of women poets from the distant past, and one e-book on Basho and the development of haiku, The Heart of Haiku. Hirshfield’s other honors include The Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the 40th Annual Distinguished Achievement Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets, an honor previously received by Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, and William Carlos Williams. Her work has been featured in ten editions of The Best American Poems and appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement/TLS, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, The New York Review of Books, Orion, McSweeney’s, and elsewhere. Hirshfield’s poems have also been featured many times on Garrison Keillor’s Writers Almanac as well as two Bill Moyers’ PBS television specials. She has presented her poems and taught at festivals and universities throughout the U.S., in China, Japan, the Middle East, the U.K., Poland, and Ireland. In 2019, she was elected into the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.

Hirshfield's appearance schedule can be found at:

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 87 reviews
Profile Image for Ken.
Author 3 books925 followers
May 7, 2016
If you are interested in Eastern culture, Buddhism, and poetry, this is the book for you. Hirshfield uses her own interest in the East to inform many of her essays on what makes poetry poetry. Not that she stops there. She's willing (and able) to call in some Christianity, some Greek mythology, and some big names in poetry for assists. The essay titles are as follows:

"Poetry and the Mind of Concentration"
"The Question of Originality"
"The World Is Large and Full of Noises: Thoughts on Translations"
"The Myriad Leaves of Words"
"Two Secrets: On Poetry's Inward and Outward Looking"
"Facing the Lion: The Way of Shadow and Light in Some Twentieth-Century Poems"
"Poetry as a Vessel of Remembrance"
"Writing and the Threshold Life"

Probably I was least interested in the essay on translation, though I know translating is a very big deal not only in poetry but in prose. She covers the angles. I say, Yeah, yeah. I get it. A lot of the essays employ metaphor, too. No surprise, as your host essayist is a poet of no small means. Modestly enough, she only includes one poem of her own:

"Late Prayer" by Jane Hirshfield

Tenderness does not choose its own uses.
It goes out to everything equally,
circling rabbit and hawk.
Look: in the iron bucket,
a single nail, a single ruby--
all the heavens and hells.
They rattle in the heart and make one sound.

There. Do you see the Buddha in the background? Just seeing the word "ONE" conjures him, it seems.

I like, too, how Hirshfield brings her power of analysis to the fore. Before reading this, I was jumping around a collection of poems by Czeslaw Milosz. One poem I particularly liked for its simplicity and beauty was "Gift." Imagine my surprise when Milosz's "Gift" surfaced in this book, too. Here it is:

"Gift" by Czeslaw Milosz

A day so happy.
Fog lifted early, I worked in the garden.
Hummingbirds were stopping over honeysuckle flowers.
There was no thing on earth I wanted to possess.
I knew no one worth my envying him.
Whatever evil I had suffered, I forgot.
To think that once I was the same man did not embarrass me.
In my body I felt no pain.
When straightening up, I saw the blue sea and sails.

To me, a simple ode to happiness, to appreciating the simple things in life, to celebrating a clean conscience. This, however, was in the "Facing the Lion" essay. The "shadow and light" essay. Turns out, it's a rhetorical device I had not known. Listen to Hirshfield's take:

"Because we feel immediately that this is a good poem, we know it must have somewhere within it the shadow of a lion, who may be mostly hidden, but is nonetheless present. The prestidigitation is done, I think, in two ways. The first is that each outward object in the poem embodies transience--what is more ephemeral than lifting fog, more quick than the unmentioned wings of the hummingbirds, stopped above the flowers? Blue seas alter in a moment, raised sails by definition pass us by. Reading the deep poem underlying the poem at first apparent, we recognize the loveliness of the entire scene as only an instant's reprieve from temporality. The second part of the trick is the rhetorical device of including a thing by putting it in the negative. Evil, suffering, physical pain, shame, the desire to possess--by telling us that for this moment each was forgotten, the poet makes us feel their presence pressing in all around this moment. This surrounding landscape of difficulty gives the poem's one day of peace its poignance. The title contributes as well: a gift is unearned, unpurchasable, and so also a thing that cannot be controlled. In that thought, too, lies the undomesticated footprint of the lion."

An analysis almost as beautiful as the poem itself! And anytime I learn something (as in here), I count myself in the right book.

If you're a fan of poetry and want to look under the hood with a tender and delicate mechanic, Jane Hirshfield's your guide.

Profile Image for Jimmy.
Author 6 books205 followers
July 17, 2014
I totally expected to dislike this book and make a lot of smarmy comments about it. I have to admit I enjoyed the entire reading experience. It's a bit of new agey, Buddhisty foolishness, but entertaining. I especially enjoyed all the quotes, a rundown of all of my favorites.

Here are a few:

Genius is "not a gift, but the way a person invents in desperate circumstances."--Sartre.

Image-making "is primarily a discipline of rightness."--Wallace Stevens.

"Just a turn of the doorknob, and there lies freedom."--Emily Dickinson.

"the capacity for a productive reaction against one's training."--Bernard Berenson's definition of genius in painting.

"Res tene, verba sequentur."--Cato the Elder.

"Perception is not whimsical, but fatal."--Emerson.

"Behind each jewel are three thousand sweating horses."--some Zen dude.

"Has this poet something to say, a little different from what anyone has said before, and has he found, not only a different way of saying it, but the different way of saying it which expresses the difference in what he is saying."--T. S. Eliot.

"How to Write Like Somebody Else"--The title of an essay by Theodore Roethke about modeling writers from the past until you learn your craft. The writer will become "more himself--or more than himself."

"Make it new."--Ezra Pound.

"Make it strange."--Leo Tolstoy.

"There are mountains hidden in mountains. There are mountains hidden in hiddenness. This is complete understanding."--Dogen.

"Traddutore, traditore."--Italian saying.

"Get rid of words, and get rid of meaning, and still there is poetry."--Yang Wan-li.

"The poetry is what gets lost in translation."--Robert Frost.

"The poetry is what gets transformed."--Octavio Paz's response.

"Unless there is a new mind, there cannot be a new line."--William Carlos Williams.

"Hearing the cuckoo,
even in Kyoto,
I long for Kyoto."--Basho.

"To generalize is to be an Idiot. To Particularize is the alone distinction of merit."--Blake.

"Death is the mother of Beauty."--Stevens.

"No."--Basho's response to a student who asked him, "Don't you mean too objective or too subjective?" after Basho had said the error in most poems is they are either objective or subjective.

In Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, James Joyce has Stephen Daedalus renounce family, country, religion, all things familiar to him to take up his new path as an artist with "the only arms I allow myself to use: silence, exile, and cunning."

"All perceiving is also thinking; all reasoning is also intuition; all observation is also invention."--Rudolph Arnheim in Art and Visual Perception.

He also says, "Eyesight is insight."

"Perceptibility is a kind of attentiveness."--Novalis

"Words are probes. Some reach very deep, some only to a little depth."--Ludwig Wittgenstein.

"We do not see things as they are; we see them as we are."--Talmudic saying.

"Result of chance; fruit of calculation."--Octavio Paz's description of a poem.

"I hate and I love.
Ask, if you wish,
why this is so--
I can't say.
But I feel it
and I am in torment."--Catallus.

"The more deeply we are our true selves, the less self is in us."--Meister Eckhart.

"Every angel is terrifying."--Rilke.
Profile Image for Rene Saller.
350 reviews22 followers
July 20, 2013
These lucid and beautifully written essays enact the book's argument, if such a dreary noun can be used to describe the subtle cast of Hirshfield's mind. This is not just a book about poetry--how it works, what it's good for, why anyone should bother writing or reading it. It's a book about seeing, attending, making ever finer distinctions. Reading these essays, each of which investigates a gate of poetic perception, I felt transported back in time to my favorite college classes: intellectually inspired, awakened to the possibilities of language. Like your most brilliant professor, Hirshfield is able to draw from an astonishing array of examples, not just from poetry (both Western and Eastern) but from Greek myth, Zen Buddhism, the Bible, philosophy, and biographical and anthropological sources. She's breathtakingly smart, but she never comes off as pedantic, and her sentences have a luminous grace that marks her as a very good poet herself. She is generous with examples, often quoting entire poems to illustrate her points, and it's a pleasure to read alongside of her, to think with her mind. I feel enriched by this book, and I'm grateful to my friend Christy for alerting me to it.
Profile Image for Lisa Kentgen.
Author 3 books28 followers
January 2, 2019
I loved this book. Originally I bought it after a couple of misses in trying to find a poetry teacher. This book is about so much more than writing poetry. At the same time, it is an incredible book on poetry. If you are not interested in poetry, I still highly recommend as a 4 plus star. And if you read it, I challenge you not to want to buy more works of poetry.

Hirshfield's writing stimulated my thinking on different projects I am working on. What a wonderful thinker, writer, human.
Profile Image for Briana.
132 reviews167 followers
March 23, 2023
Threshold. Liminal. To transform. To be in between the transformation. This book was a masterclass on poetry and life and writing. It’s about what the poets meant when they said that thing and what any of us mean when we say that thing. (The words under the words.) It’s about originality and how none of us really carry it (all influenced and copied but through that is our voice) but also to carry it you must exile yourself. (A lonely path but there is wisdom in solitude) It’s about concentration—that thing that you think you know the meaning of but association has made it meaningless. She gave me a new meaning to the word— a deep focus, it’s about placing your words the way you place your feet when you walk: deliberately I hope, so you don’t stumble and fall. Have you ever noticed if you don’t pay attention you’re likely to knock into things? And this book is about paying attention. To your surroundings, to your body to yourself. But it’s also about forgetting about yourself so you can see past yourself. It’s about how we might never be able to rid of ourselves completely and certainly, we will never get rid of the demons in our heads, the lions, the beasts. Instead, we are taught to live amongst them, we are taught to see what they can show us and teach us about ourselves. Have you stayed silent long enough recently to hear the lion roar? It’s about the lion being shadow work and how every poem has darkness and light in it—it’s what makes it dynamic. There are so many dichotomies in this book which is a reflection of life. All of life is a paradox. But the root of it, what I think Jane was trying to desperately tell us is that poetry is there, all around us. Maybe it is hard to grasp because we are not willing to sit with ourselves, to settle in our thoughts and feelings. It's about seeing past what you see. Its about seeing the mountains in the mountains, do you see them too? No don't try to understand, let go. Freedom is in letting go. Freedom is in abandoning logic and what you think you know. Trust your gut. Close your eyes, hear the rustle of the wind. Forgive me if I sound insane but if a book is a masterclass on life how do you review it?
Profile Image for Lynn Tait.
Author 2 books28 followers
July 27, 2016
Nature, spirituality in poetry all wrapped in informative and uplifting essays from Hirshfield. All of the essays had their own strengths, but Facing the Lion: The Way of Shadow and Light in Some Twentieth-Century Poems really struck a chord with me. I highly recommend this book.
Profile Image for Catherine Moore.
Author 10 books17 followers
August 22, 2014
Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. Hirshfield, Jane. New York: Harper Perennial, 1998. ISBN: 0-06-092948-0

I finished reading "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry" by Jane Hirshfield for a second time and what shines through in this collection of essays is Hirshfield's reverence for the poet who "weaves a world" out of his or her ability "to attend unswervingly." Or as she puts it, "Poems show that a single moment's perception is more than enough to hold a world."

The book presents nine essays, or gates for the poet to walk through to gain an understanding of poetic craft. It is an intensely inner-focused study of this creative process.

She describes the writer as becoming transparent, transient, empty of self, on a threshold, or in such a way that she is opened to a deeper awareness of others. In this connectedness, the writer identifies with all people, all things, and cannot help but speak on their behalf.

I’m attempting to synthesize what this talented writer shares about the “kind of poetry which resonates.” She opens the book’s preface with a hint, “Poetry’s work is the clarification and magnification of being.” This is both wonderfully encompassing and frighteningly broad to me. I honestly experienced a sense of feeling weighted while I was reading this book. Is that a burden or a gift? It may be too soon to tell.

For now, I found wisdom about "being" at each gate. There is much material to cull through since Hirshfield’s deft hand moves from philosophy to art to sociology. What follows is a summary of her thoughts in regards to what constitutes good poetry. I think the quotes relate to all good writing as well—

“Every good poem begins in language awake to its own connections – language that hears itself and what is around it, sees itself and what is around it, looks back at those who and what we are.” (Poetry and the Mind of Concentration, p. 3).

“Every great poet leaves the landscape of poetry altered by his or her passage through it.” (World is Large and Full of Noise, p. 65).

“Craft and consciousness matter. But a poet’s attention must also be open to what is not already understood, decided, weighed out. For a poem to be fully alive, the poet needs to surrender the protection of the known and venture into a different relationship with the subject—or is it the object? … The poet must learn from what dwells outside her conceptions, capacities, and even language: from exile and silence.” (Poetry and the Mind of Indirection, p.120).

“Entering the threshold is not a matter of going into literal woods, though that may help. It is a matter of mind, of leaving the trail of convention and norm, whether in the city or the wild.” (Writing and the Threshold Life, p. 221).

In each of these essays, I felt Hirshfield was urging us to explore how “knowing” and “not-knowing” balance each other in the craft of making a poem. This dichotomy I’ve heard echoed by other literary writers, though I absolutely delight in how Hirshfield describes it—

“A poem circles its content… Poems do not make appointments with their subjects – they stalk them, keeping their distance, looking slightly off to one side.” (p. 107).
Profile Image for Jamie Dedes.
1 review1 follower
January 8, 2013


by Jane Hirshfield (b. 1953, American) author and poet

Review by: Jamie Dedes (The Poet by Day, http://musingbymoonlight.com)

An award-winning author and poet, Jane Hirshfield has published seven collections of poetry in addition to Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, a collection of essays. Her most recent book of poetry is Come, Thief (August 2011). In collaboration with Mariko Aratoni, Hirshfield edited and translated four volumes of poetry by women of ancient Japan.

Ms. Hirshfield is a Zen Buddhist and her practice informs her work with spiritual insight and delicate nuance. She has said, “It is my hope that the experience of that practice underlies and informs [my poetry] as a whole. My feeling is that the paths of poetry and of meditation are closely linked – one is an attentiveness and awareness that exists in language, the other an attentiveness and awareness that exists in silence, but each is a way to attempt to penetrate experience thoroughly, to its core.” [The Poetry Foundation]

Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (September 1998) is a series of nine essays that were written by Jane Hirshfield over a ten-year period and published or presented at poetry events.


Gates are a means of exit and entrance, providing connection between the inner and the outer. The premise of Hirshfield’s book is that the art of poetry is the gate by which we are offered “mysterious informing.” Nine Gates is at once a primer for the reader and a manual for the writer. This is a book that is reverent of art, artist, and life. All is sacred ground.

The book begins at the beginning – the root of poetry – concentration. “By concentration, I mean a particular state of awareness: penetrating, unified, and focused, yet also permeable and open.” As she says, this is Huxley’s “doors to perception” and James Joyce’s “epiphany.” It is what I would call sacred space, and this focus, this concentration, “however laborious, becomes a labor of love.” In this chapter, I particularly appreciated the short discussion of voice: writers whose ear is turned to both the inner and outer have found their voice and thus are able to put their ”unique and recognizable stamp” upon their work.

The book closes with “Writing and the Threshold Life” and a discussion of the space into which a writer withdraws, liminal space. The writer, she tells us, becomes like the monk giving-up identity and assumptions. . “The person [in liminal state] leaves behind his or her identity and dwells in the threshold state of ambiguity, openness, and indeterminacy.” This is all rather like the person going through a ritual transitions. Only after transition to this liminal space, neither here nor there, is community wholeheartedly embraced. To see clearly and to embrace the whole without judgment, one has to be free of the standard cannon and the received wisdom. The idea being that the creative life is one that gives up the ordinary conventions, which is the price of freedom.

Encased between the two portals of concentration and the threshold life are discussions of originality, translation (what we learn from the poetry and linguistic traditions of others), “word leaves” (images), indirection (the mind of the poet circles the poem), inward and outward looking, the shadow side of poetry (between the realms of heaven and hell), and poetry as a “vessel of remembrance.”

The book’s range is broad, using poets and their wisdom from ancient times to modern and from East to West. The essays are at once a delicate lace and a sturdy practical homespun. All is approached with respect, clarity, and intelligence. Each chapter is a gentle nudge toward more authenticity, greater truth, deeper spirituality. In her introduction, Jane Hirshfield says that because the essays were written at different times some themes and quotes are repeated and removing the repetitions proved impossible. I felt the repetitions served to reinforce. I was grateful for them. If I have any difficulty with this book, it was the conflict between not wanting to put it down and wanting to put it down to start writing in the spirit of entering the mind of poetry. A definite thumbs-up on this one.


Essay ~ © 2011, Jamie Dedes, all rights reserved

Cover art ~ © publisher, posted under fair use
Profile Image for Simon Robs.
436 reviews94 followers
November 13, 2016
A book that, like Dante's Beatrice, guides us through a descent into one hella dreamscape, through oral history then verse as words and language organized into poetry and beyond. She gathers the philosophy and myth, the men/women in their traditions/cultures, in our world of time/space. There's a nice blend here of poems and prose, poets and explication, her voice in our mind just like all time. If you love poetry you'll love this carol of such, it's beauty in words for the ages.

What about some pulled fragments from chapter: "Poetry as a Vessel of Remembrance" ... who do these two bespeak?

"In the paradox that so often holds Greek truth, the messenger god is a trickster. He lies, he jokes, he speaks by misdirection as often as he speaks clearly. Tricksters spill with the energy of creation, and true to form, Hermes loves sex: ..."

"And it is in his playfulness, irreverence, and his disdain for the rules that his capacities for seeing things new, for invention, also reside. He is in many ways the opposite of Mnemosyne, whose power, though it rises in a springlike freshening, is primarily in the service of conservation and continuance. The power of Hermes is that of change."

"Zeus then assigns him his duties as a member of the pantheon: the job of messenger and also the care of treaties, commerce, and travelers."

And so it goes....
Profile Image for David Anthony Sam.
Author 10 books23 followers
September 15, 2015
Jane Hirshfield is not just one of the finest poets writing today, she is also one of the best writers about the craft and art of poetry and its place in our contemporary world. This collection of essays is not just for the student of poetry but for anyone who cares about language and the need for art to make us wholly human.
Profile Image for Elisabeth Kinsey.
106 reviews
March 27, 2010
If you want to be a poet--or just know the inner world of poetry--Jane leads you there. It is one of the books I go back to again and again for reference, for inspiration, and to gain objectivity on poetry.
Profile Image for Jessie.
Author 8 books46 followers
June 17, 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."
Profile Image for Jude Li-Berry.
41 reviews8 followers
June 26, 2015
This is a book I started reading before applying for a MFA program in poetry, and I wish I had continued reading it and the other books I enjoyed at the time, rather than going to the MFA program. It has been almost six years now, and picking it up again has been a bit like a chance encounter with an old friend, a human, in the Newspeak world of humanoids. Through a series of nine essays, Hirshfield gradually reveals a world of living poetry, as well as of poetic living. And the later is no mere tautology; Hirshfield's exploration of the liminal, of multiplicity -- of identity, complements well Kierkegaard's discussion on Nothing and boredom, the 'spurious infinity', as he calls it, with the added benefit rising from an approach to the Zen mind that is decidedly more honest: Hirshfield is more uncanny.
Profile Image for Sherry.
123 reviews
November 24, 2010
I loved it. It touched into my poet, my artist, my passion, my love of words and how they can open and move and transform. She writes so thoughtfully, so knowingly, so bravely and so well. Thank you, Jaime, for sending me off to Japan with this book in my bag. Her essays on Japanese poetry are especially enlightening and open a window on the culture here that I had not been able to look through before. I just ordered some of her own poetry and can't wait to read it...and maybe even commit a couple to my heart knowing or "memorization" as Mary Jo and Saved By a Poem have encouraged me to practice!
Profile Image for Anna.
142 reviews
November 25, 2011
I really loved so many of these essays--especially when Hirshfield was speaking of her experience in translation--Ink Dark Moon! A real favorite.

Sometimes, though, I felt Hirshfield got caught in a kind of private lexicon, in which a number of sentences were not as lucid and precise as I feel her very capable of.... Either she went all the sudden flowery or philosophical, but nonsense. Again, I felt this had something to do with translating her ideas a bit, defining her terms. And, again, at other times, I felt carried along completely and clearly...so!

It's a marvelous read. And, I think an important book for poetry.
Profile Image for Johanna C. .
74 reviews4 followers
February 24, 2011
Some parts of this book were really tedious and I had to weed out some bits as she'd ramble and I either had no interest or found that it didn't relate to the subject at all. Some essays I completely skimmed over, but read most of them. I really enjoyed some and some poem ideas came put of them even though she doesn't give assignments. Overall I enjoyed it and would say it was a very fruitful read. I just would advise others that sometimes she gets a bit...hmm....airy and just steer forth or skip.
Profile Image for Jonathan Tennis.
625 reviews11 followers
March 27, 2017
My first Jane Hirshfield craft book. To say this woman knows poetry is an understatement. This book is only 224 pages long but packed with Hirshfield’s breadth and depth of knowledge of the subject of poetry. Mentioning over 40 poets and making references to their work or style this book focuses on the central energies through which poetry moves forward – music, rhetoric, image, emotion, story and voice (p. 7). A few pages later, she moves on to discuss the luminaries Mozart, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Walt Whitman and Nietzsche. Amazing craft book. Highly recommend it.
9 reviews1 follower
September 29, 2007
This is a series of essays by Jane Hirshfield that act like individual meditations into the many quiet landscapes that poetry inhabits. (I'm trying hard to describe what I'm not sure can be described...but if you try this book, you'll see Hirshfield do a MUCH better job of it.) Very good on a quiet dimly-lit night, with a glass of wine and open mind.
6 reviews1 follower
January 4, 2009
Hirshfield's essays are wise, cogent, lyrical, and full of heart. If I were forced to come up with a "desert island" list of essays on poetry, "Poetry and the Mind of Concentration," the first essay in the book, would easily make it.
Profile Image for Aidan Owen.
159 reviews4 followers
November 25, 2015
Wonderful collection of essays. Incisive and insightful, not only about poetry, but about art, meaning-making, and the search for truth. Truly worth the read.
Profile Image for Bill.
4 reviews2 followers
October 14, 2017
Beautifully written. The essays in this collection truly reflect Hirshfield's view of poetry.
Profile Image for Paula Cappa.
Author 14 books484 followers
February 2, 2020
This book addresses the creative art of all kinds of writing, creativity, and poetry in equal parts. “The world in which we exist becomes itself.” A thought-provoking statement about art that brings the reader not only into his or her soul, but into the music of words and images. Outer and inner landscapes become the portrait of the book. Toward what end? To what takes place between writer and reader and into the “experience.” How does one enter a poem or a story? Many questions arise in this book, and Hirshfield is masterful at suggesting answers, revealing secrets, and yet leaving the door open to more questions. She notes that there are “tricksters” within the writer who censor too quickly and mislead. I liked Hirshfield’s insights to the act of writing as “a making, but also a following” into the mystery as it emerges in the process. If you’ve ever been in the process of writing anything and felt yourself wandering, feeling lost in the dark, fear not; Hirshfield says, this darkness is where the true journey begins to discover the original lightness of being. To discover that presence, the secret language, and the pregnant silences, is the path to power. Highly recommended for writers, artists, and students who want a leap of revelation. Paula Cappa is an avid book reviewer and an award-winning supernatural mystery author.
Profile Image for Marion.
41 reviews10 followers
December 6, 2017
Not only is this book overflowing with brilliant insights into the "mind" of poetry, but it is also filled with excellent, beautiful excerpts from dozens of great poems and many complete poems. I was enlightened, educated, entertained and inspired to work harder on my own poetry. My copy of this book is lovingly highlighted, dog-eared and underlined and a favorite in my poetry bookcases. If you love poetry or simply want to better understand it, then this book is a must-read.
Profile Image for Nicholas Whyte.
4,627 reviews177 followers
March 11, 2018

I'm not hugely into poetry, but I certainly don't dislike it either, and this is a good approachable set of essays looking at what poetry is and what poets do, informed (often convincingly) by the author's Buddhist philosophy. The chapters on translation are particularly good - it's an issue I grapple with daily in my working life, though of course not usually for poetry.
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