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Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women

4.34  ·  Rating details ·  408 ratings  ·  41 reviews
"Hirshfield's current collection brings together . . . an astonishing array of women writers from the 22nd century BC poet Enheduanna to Nelly Sachs and Anna Akhmatova."--Library Journal ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published January 19th 1995 by Harper Perennial (first published 1994)
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Hope Struck
Sep 01, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone with a beating heart
Recommended to Hope by: i found it!
Shelves: poetry
i checked this out from the library.
next, i will buy it.
then, i will roll around on top of this book and rub it all over my face. i will shower in this book for the rest of my stinkin life. that's how much i love this book. fyi.
Dec 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012, poetry
A combination of spiritual poetry and history of the poets. Really expansive, beautiful, informative collection.

My favorites were:

p 21, Zi Ye
All night I could not sleep / because of the moonlight on my bed. / I kept on hearing a voice calling: / Out of Nowhere, Nothing answered "yes."

p 31, Gnostic Gospel - Nag Hammadi Library
I am the incomprehensible silence / and the memory that will not be forgotten. / I am the voice whose sound is everywhere / and the speech that appears in many forms. / I a
Mar 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: awesome-poetry
What I loved most about this book is that it is about women who experience spirituality and express it in their poetry. This is not a collection of Christian ideas, although they play an important role in it too. Instead, there are many poems from pre-Christian times, just as from other religions and eras. The common theme, according to the title, is the 'praise of the sacred'. I was not always sure about the meaning of 'sacred', and would have rather preferred 'spirituality', but this isjust a ...more
Gina Herald
Jan 18, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"I was passionate
filled with longing,
I searched
far and wide.

But the day
that the Truthful One
found me,
I was at home."
-Lal Ded

l view this work as women coming home to themselves, and their gifts. I can only hope for so much in this alienating and deeply confused time to be alive. This is a wonderful guidebook to return to for that purpose.

This celebrates turbulence, cycles, gentleness, shameless exuberance, empathy, and many of the human traits that are culturally notated as feminine. Whether
Gudrun Mouw
Nov 08, 2016 rated it liked it
I enjoyed the broad historical spectrum of poetry by women. My favorite poet in the book was Anna Akhmatova. I'm still thinking of the last 3 lines of a poem written 2 years before her death:

I cannot tell if the day
Is ending, or the world, or if
The secret of secrets is inside me again.

Some of the other work seemed a bit uneven to me.
Mar 20, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: poetry
Such a breadth of cultures and time and yet some things never change, as Sumangalamata made very clear in her poem that reads, "At last free, at last I am a woman free! No more tied to the kitchen, stained amid the stained pots, no more bound to the husband who thought me less than the shade he wove with his hands. No more anger, no more hunger, I sit now in the shade of my own tree. Meditating thus, I am happy, I am serene." (6th century B.C.E.) :)

I also loved Edith Sodergran's "Homecoming"- it
John Evans
May 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I discovered a passion for poetry upon reading "Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women". The depth and substance of each poem phenomenal, sacred, and embraced by esoteric value and richness. I also enjoyed discovering ancient, as well as modern female voices who speak (or write), about the mysteries of life, especially that of the soul. One of my favorites was by Lal Ded (Lalla), 14th c. perhaps, p. 120, "I was passionate / filled with longing / I searched / far ...more
Jul 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I want to buy 6000 copies of this book and pass it on to family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.
Glenn Berger
Among many wonderful poems is this one by Pan Zhao (48-117?), the most famous woman scholar of Chinese history, on the slow, incremental process of restoring one's connection to our essential nature, on finding the lost heart.

Tempered, annealed, the hard essence of autumn metals
finely forged, subtle, yet perdurable and straight,

By nature penetrating deep yet advancing by inches
to span all things yet stitch them up together,

Only needle-and-thread's delicate footsteps
are truly broad-ranging yet wi
Ivan Granger
Jun 02, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, favorites
This is the first anthology I got years ago that made me say, Wow! Includes Sappho, Rabia, Yeshe Tsogyel, Hildegard von Bingen, Mechthild of Magdeburg, Hadewijch of Antwerp, Lalla, Mirabai, Bibi Hayati, Marina Tsvetaeva. The best collection I’ve found of women’s voices in sacred poetry.
Lanette Sweeney
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful collection of women's poetry about the holy and the sacred, beginning with Queen Makeda in ancient Ethiopia, who adopted the one-god philosophy and helped establish the line of Israelites there after losing her virginity to King Solomon. Each poet's work is preceded by a brief biography of the woman, her influences and possible interpretations of her meaning. Reading Hirshfield's artful descriptions of these extraordinary women and her explications of their (often previously ...more
Feb 01, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I enjoyed reading selections from women throughout history who have been so inspired by the divine. Each one contains some history about the woman herself and some of her poetry or writings. Having been brought up in a fairly straightforward Christian church, it's really helpful for me to see examples of how women throughout time have directly experienced and expressed their interpretation of divinity and love, dating from the earliest written records of our human history to more recent works. I ...more
Christina Isobel
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What an extraordinary book edited by Jane Hirshfield with many poems translated by her. The subtitle is "43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women." 43 centuries! And poems from women all over the world. A perfect book for these times. Many of these women have had very difficult lives or lived in times as difficult or more difficult than ours right now. They have gone inward and often outward to find their deep voices and the voices coming from a woman's perspective. I have gained much solace an ...more
May 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Much of the poetry I’ve been reading lately is a hard intellectual chew. This volume is spacious and inspiring, humble, doesn’t work too hard. Jane Hirshfield brings together women from diverse pools of spiritual thought. Some were personally strengthening for me, and others just made me give pause. (One I even ripped out!) Hirshfield makes it easy to go deep—a great introduction to many underrepresented poets.
Mallory Everhart
Jan 07, 2021 rated it it was amazing
"What the soul does for the body, the poet does for her people." - Gabriela Mistral

Immense gratitude to Jane Hirschfield for compiling, editing, and contextualizing this deeply sacred volume of women's spiritual poetry. She includes a wide variety of women hailing from around the world and works to set them in their own particularity while also drawing interesting comparisons in topic and theme among them. Profoundly illuminating.
Yvonne Flint
Aug 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
From earliest written records and encompassing many cultures, these deep, wise women spoke my heart.
Phyllis Fredericksen
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A compilation of poetry written by women over the centuries. A brief summary of each author’s life preceded her poetry. Very well done. I used this as a meditation each day and enjoyed it.
Dec 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry, spirituality
© 1994. Includes a mini biography of each author. These poems were inspiring, gripping, glorious, sublime, some causing tears, others lifting the heart. A real treasure.
Fred Dameron
Feb 24, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
Wonderful collection of women's poetry. ...more
Aug 14, 2020 rated it it was amazing
What a wonderful collection of poems!
Lubna Ferdousy
Apr 08, 2021 rated it really liked it
Filled in my head and my heart. Will surely come back to it from time to time.
Aug 24, 2021 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars for the poetry. 4 stars for the history. Broadening!
Catherine Corman
Oct 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
On this summer night
All the household lies asleep,
And in the doorway,
For once open after dark,
Stands the moon, brilliant, cloudless.

-Jusammi Chikako, in Women in Praise of the Sacred
Feb 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A stunning collections of centuries of women's poetry complete with biographies. I've been savoring a poem a day for years. Beautiful and inspiring. ...more
May 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
I appreciate this book for its historical significance, but I'm not intellectual enough for poetry. So it is not the book that's bad, it is me who is a bad reader I suppose. It is also fair to say the women who wrote the poetry within the book are BA. It is a great book for history buffs, poetry lovers, and awesome feminist humans. ...more
May FLower
Mar 11, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I really loved this. It collects women's poetry about the sacred aspect of life from a range of backgrounds, time periods and religious practices. Lots of good stuff and I found a bunch of women I want to read more about. ...more
J. Robin Whitley
Jan 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is filled with women poets that are known and unknown through the ages. The book too me a long time to read because some of the poems so beautiful I had to stop reading to allow the poem to linger in my mind, simmer in my heart.
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Hirshfield offers a well-rounded sampling of women from numerous traditions and times - each of whom write with a sensibility toward God, the Beloved, or that which is sacred (even a boy who commits suicide). Her brief bios are enough to tempt you to read more.
Tom Helmick
Dec 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poetry
Had I only been introduced to the poetry of Nelly Sachs, that would have been more than enough. She really touched me. As it was, I was also treated to 43 centuries of spiritual poetry written by women. This was an impressive and inspirited read.
Jan 20, 2017 rated it really liked it
This collection of poetry is transporting. It's chronological span alone recommends it, but the variety and beauty of the selections seals this as one to read and enjoy. I borrowed it from the library and recommend you do likewise. ...more
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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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