Poetry Book Society Choice
Shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize
Jane Hirshfield is a visionary American writer whose poems ask nothing less than what it is to be human. Both sensual meditations and passionate investigations, they reveal complex truths in language luminous and precise. Rooted in the living world, her poems celebrate and elucidate a hard-won affirmation of our human fate. Born of a rigorous questioning of heart, spirit and mind, they have become indispensable to many American readers in navigating their own lives.
Following the publication of her retrospective Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems in 2005, Bloodaxe has published Jane Hirshfield's later collections in the UK: After (2006), a Poetry Book Society Choice which was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize, Come Thief (2012), The Beauty (2015), and Ledger (2020).
After is an extended investigation into incarnation, transience and interconnection. These alert, incisive and compassionate poems examine the human condition through subjects ranging from spareness, possibility, judgement and hidden grief to global warming, insomnia, meanings in overlooked parts of speech, and the metaphysics of sneezing. Often elegies – some overt, others implicit – these poems resound with a bass-note awareness of time, its inexorable subtractions but also its exuberant gifts.
‘Jane Hirshfield is a poet very close to my heart’ – Wislawa Szymborska
‘A profound empathy for the suffering of all living beings…It is precisely this that I praise in the poetry of Jane Hirshfield…In its highly sensuous detail, her poetry illuminates the Buddhist virtue of mindfulness’ – Czeslaw Milosz, Prze Kroj(Poland)
‘Her poetry is a rich and assured gift…an extraordinary intertwining of cherished detail and passionate abstraction…The poems’ realised ambition is wisdom’ – Alison Brackenbury, Agenda
‘Poems of quiet wisdom, steeped in a profound understanding of what it it to be human’ – The Scotsman
Jane Hirshfield reads seven poems
Jane Hirshfield reads seven poems from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems (2005) and After (2006): ‘Pyracantha and Plum’, ‘The Envoy’, ‘The Poet’, ‘The Weighing’, ‘Burlap Sack’, ‘Tree’ and ‘It Was Like This: You Were Happy’. Pamela Robertson-Pearce filmed Jane Hirshfield in London in October 2006 when she was visiting London to read at Poetry International. This film is from the DVD-anthology In Person: 30 Poets, filmed by Pamela Robertson-Pearce & edited by Neil Astley (Bloodaxe Books, 2008).