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.
Hers is a poetry of clarity and hybrid vigour, drawing deeply on English and American traditions but also those of world poetry. The poetries of modern and classical Greece, of Horace and Catullus, of classical China and Japan and Eastern Europe all resonate in Jane Hirshfield’s structures of thought and in her sensibilities. Indelibly of our time yet seated in the lineage of poetic discovery, these poems are meant to endure.
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).
‘'The poem carries love and terror, or it carries nothing.' That line is from a poem [from Each Happiness Ringed by Lions] by the American poet Jane Hirshfield, and it's been a kind of guiding principle for me as a poet. What I love about Jane’s poems is they always make me suddenly remember the strangeness of being alive, often in quite a shocking way. The images are so playful and chewy and enjoyable, and yet the stakes are always life and death.’ – Caroline Bird, BBC Radio 4, Terrifying Verse
‘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).