[09/12/23] Hirshfield, Jane: The Asking: New and Selected Poems
Publication Date: September 12, 2023
Publisher Marketing: A beautiful selection of work across half a century from an exquisite and essential American poet, hailed for her continual exploration of the most urgent questions of our human role on the planet and our responsibilities to one another, and for bringing "transcendence through art" (San Francisco Chronicle) The Asking opens with new and urgent poems by Jane Hirshfield, in which she faces again the contradictions that have shaped her work: "Some take/ in witnessed suffering, pleasure," she writes. "Some make, of witnessed suffering, beauty." The volume then returns to the beginning, carrying us from her earliest volumes (including Of Gravity and Angels; Given Sugar, Given Salt; and After), up through the important recent work (Come, Thief; The Beauty; Ledger). We find poems of the smallest ant and the vastness of time, of hunger and bounty, of science and war and love in its myriad forms. Whether it is Hirshfield's insistence on the lessons of the natural world—"The lake scarlets / the same instant as the maple. / Let others try to say this is not passion"—or her facing squarely the depredations of climate and the harm to fellow human beings by our own hands; whether she is assessing what language does for us ("Words are loyal. / Whatever they name they take the side of") or interrogating poetry itself as a vibrant, living medium through which her own debt to creation's splendors must be paid, this poet sets our shared truths in black ink. The Asking, in poems of delicacy and ringing clarity, demands our attention to beauty and injustice equally, enlarging our awareness of breakage as well as the possibility for repair.