Saturday, May 9, 2015

Sunday's Mini-challenge: Jane Hirshfield

Hi everyone ~  My featured poet this month is the award winning American author, essayist and translator Jane Hirshfield.

Photo credit: Michael Lionheart

Jane Hirshfield is the author of several collections of verse, including Come, Thief(2011), After (2006), shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize, and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), a finalist for the National Book Critics Award, among others. Hirshfield has also translated the work of early women poets in collections such as The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan (1990) and Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-Three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women (1994). Inspired by both Eastern and Western traditions, Hirshfield’s work encompasses a huge range of influences. “Greek and Roman lyrics, the English sonnet, those foundation stones of American poetry Walt Whitman and Emily Dickinson, ‘modern’ poets from T. S. Eliotto Anna Akhmatova to C. P. Cavafy to Pablo Neruda—all have added something to my knowledge of what is possible in poetry,” Hirshfield explained to Contemporary Authors. Equally influential have been classical Chinese poets Tu Fu, Li Po, Wang Wei, and Han Shan; classical Japanese Heian-Era poets Komachi and Shikibu; and such lesser-known traditions as Eskimo and Nahuatl poetry.

Hirshfield published her first poem in 1973, shortly after graduating from Princeton as a member of the university’s first graduating class to include women. She put aside her writing for nearly eight years, however, to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. “I felt that I’d never make much of a poet if I didn’t know more than I knew at that time about what it means to be a human being,” Hirshfield once said. “I don’t think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn’t just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.

Hirshfield’s poetry works with short forms, spare lines, and careful imagery of natural and domestic settings. Her poems frequently hinge on a turning point or moment of insight. 

About her work, the poet Rosana Warren has said: Her poems appear simple, and are not. Her language, in its cleanliness and transparency, poses riddles of a quietly metaphysical nature...Clause by clause, image by image, in language at once mysterious and commonplace, Hirshfield’s poems clear a space for reflection and change. They invite ethical awareness, and establish a delicate balance.

Green-Striped Melons

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.
Some people
are like this as well—
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting.
An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they've been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There's a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

Sonoma Fire

Large moon the deep orange of embers.  
Also the scent.
The griefs of others—beautiful, at a distance.

You can read more of her poems here and here.

The challenge is write a new poem or prose poem inspired by the title, verse or style by Jane Hirshfield.   I look forward to reading your work. Please visit and comment on the work of others.   And Happy Mother's Day to all !   Grace (aka Heaven)


Outlawyer said...

Lovely poems, Grace. Happy Mother's Day. k.

Grace said...

Thanks K ~ Happy Mother's Day to you too ~

brudberg said...

Happy Mother's day to all mothers where this is the day.. Here in Sweden it's another day.. :-) I peaked in advance and put my thinking cap on. I did let myself be inspired but I think I wrote something quite different.. Hope it's OK-

Sanaa Rizvi said...

Hello everyone,

Wishing you all Happy mother's day, sharing my poem "A hand", for this occasion. The title is taken from a Jane Hirshfield poem :D

Thank you Grace for this wonderful opportunity :D

Lots of love

Rosemary Nissen-Wade said...

I have long known Jane Hirshfield as an informative writer on the art of making haiku. I didn't realise she wrote other kinds of poetry too.

I don't know if I have succeeded in writing in her style, but that's what I've attempted.

Marian said...

Hello, friends! Thanks for this lovely prompt, Grace.

Grace said...

I am back and reading your poems ~ Thanks for the inspired words ~

Fireblossom said...

I can definitely relate to the simple-but-not. Let me see what I can do.

Anonymous said...

I love "Sonoma Fire."

Anonymous said...

What a great prompt. Loved the examples of
Jane's work

Blogoratti said...

What a beautiful poem, best wishes!

hedgewitch said...

I just recently read some of Hirshfield's work, Grace, and liked it very much. I had absolutely no intention of writing anything, but somehow I woke up with a few words and had to do something with them. Thanks.

Debi Swim said...

Thank you for the heads-up on this poet. I really like what I've read.

Fireblossom said...

People, please remember to link to the specific poem, not just to your main page.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Hi kids, am exhausted today but I really like this poet's work, so gave it a whirl.

Ella said...

Happy Mother's Day! Thank you, Grace for sharing Jane with us~

Hannah said...

Thank you for this poet feature, Grace...I really enjoyed reading and discovering more of her work as well.

I will be returning to read tomorrow - need to tend to kiddos bedtimes...

Happy Mother's day to all the mamas!

Buddah Moskowitz said...

Sorry, I'm late, but I was getting material for today's poem.

Happy Belated Mother's Day for all you mothers out there,


Susie Clevenger said...

What a beautiful challenge Grace. Sorry to be so late!

Margaret said...

Thank you for introducing me to a new poet. I will probably do this prompt for they "Play it Again" upcoming series. I really enjoy her!

I've been busy moving my son out of his apartment and finding him a Brooklyn NYC apartment. We move him to New York in a few days... I miss writing my poetry, but I know time will come around again when the kids won't keep me hoping quite so much