Jane Hirshfield’s urgent new collection is a book of personal, ecological and political reckoning. Her poems inscribe a ledger personal and communal, a registry of our time's and lives’ dilemmas as well as a call to action on climate change, social justice and the plight of refugees.
The poems of Ledger record riches, both abiding and squandered, and mourn our failures. They confirm, too, the continually renewing gift of the present moment, summoning our responsibility as moral beings to sustain one another and the earth’s continuance. Finally, it is the human spirit and the language of poetry— loyal instruments of recognition, humility and praise —that triumph in this stunned, stunning accounting, set forth by a master poet whose voice is tonic and essential, whose breadth of inclusion and fierce awareness rivet attention.
Jane Hirshfield writes: ‘Ledger carries that title because it’s a book of stocktaking, trying to take account of and recount what feels an unaccountable time. Here we all are, trying to comprehend a precipitously incomprehensible era. These poems navigate my responses and responsibilities, as poet, as person, to that era.’
‘Hirshfield's poems are light, gestural, many have a quality of a bird riding the wind… The poems in this collection concern themselves with a variety of topics including climate change, social justice, the plight of refugees etc. But, more importantly than the subjects of the poems themselves, the book's central thread asks us to reconsider our relationship to the wild, the world, to other people, and how we think about ourselves.’ - Jay Springett, Ignota Books of the Year 2021
'The most important measure of anything is its meaning... Hirshfield perfectly captures our individual sense of lostness, faced with undeniable catastrophe, while invoking our collective responsibility.' - Fiona Sampson, The Guardian
'Intelligent, complex and full of clarity, Jane Hirshfield's latest collection Ledger is a call to one's sense of justice and moral responsibility in the world we live in: a personal, ecological and social reckoning. One of the remarkable strengths of this book is to call into question our world-views, the way we measure or weigh our dilemmas.' - Jennifer Wong, PN Review
‘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… For Jane Hirshfield, the greatest terror is in the increasing awareness of what we are doing to the planet, and what we might continue to do in the future. It’s a reality she reckons with in her latest collection Ledger.’ – Caroline Bird, BBC Radio 4, Terrifying Verse
‘Hirshfield’s writing is always sensuous and focused: at the same time, her Zen-influenced deep absorption in things seen and sensed is often unsettled by a further, philosophical line of inquiry. This leads to new insights, but not necessarily an easy resolution.’ – Carol Rumens, Poem of the Week, The Guardian
'Although she has been writing poems that speak of the environment “for decades”, the subject has a new urgency and centrality here: as Hirshfield says, “the time for swerve feels shorter”. From the collection’s opening lines of despair and defiance… to its ominous closing reference to the “flammable colors” of the natural world, this is, in the words of the New York Times, an “ecological and political reckoning … some of the most important poetry in the world today”.’ – Times Literary Supplement, Poem of the Week, on Ledger
‘Ledger is a book of harvesting of inner and outer experience, and at an extraordinarily barren time in human history, its fruits are a perfect, stunning and much needed blend of bitter and sweet.’ - Rosie Jackson, The High Window
'Reviewing in this pandemic and lockdown, it is impossible not to read Jane Hirshfield’s extraordinary new collection as eerily prescient and a particularly relevant gift to these times… Ledger is an essential collection for our times, and beyond.’ – Beth McDonough, DURA (Dundee University Review of the Arts)
'Hirshfield has an extraordinary talent for both opening a poem out and yet pinning down; allowing the imagination both to reach out and to settle.' - Ian Pople, The Manchester Review
‘Hirshfield … also writes in Ledger of the impact of war. Particularly potent in its enabling us to feel rather than simply know, is ‘She Breathes in the Scent’, which embraces the emotional heft of loss for all displaced people.’ – Dawn Gorman, Caduceus
'Few search-artists have served as greater agents of transmutation than Jane Hirshfield—a poet of optimism and of lucidity, a champion of science and an ordained Buddhist, a poet who could write 'So few grains of happiness / measured against all the dark / and still the scales balance,' a poet who can balance and steady us against those times when we 'go to sleep in one world and wake in another' with her wondrous new collection, Ledger . . . this miraculous book . . . altogether re-saning.' - Maria Popova, Brainpickings.org
'From the opening poem, “Let Them Not Say", to the closing, “My Debt”, the masterful ninth book from Hirshfield is an account of how “We did not-enough” to save the world. Most poems are no longer than a page, though some are considerably shorter (“My Silence” is only a title). They are set against a page and a half of prose in the middle of the book about “Capital” which, for the writer, is language “as slippery as any other kind of wealth”. Through this juxtaposition, Hirshfield urges a reckoning of human influence on – and interference with – the planet. In “As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us", she begins: “As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting” and ends, underscoring humanity’s obliviousness: “We scrape from the world its... wonder.../ Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.” Hirshfield suggests that people are unable, or unwilling, to comprehend their role in their own destruction: “If the unbearable were not weightless we might yet buckle under the grief.” Hirshfield’s world is one filled with beauty, from the “generosity” of grass to humanity’s connection to the muskrat. This is both a paean and a heartbreaking plea.' – Publishers Weekly on Ledger
'A new volume of poems by acclaimed poet Jane Hirshfield is an event. After reading the poems in Ledger - a capacious, varied volume - it seems as if ordinary life is richer and deeper than before . . . A Hirshfield poem is an exercise in opening the self . . . The value of such work is beyond question.' - Magdalena Kay, World Literature Today
'Jane Hirshfield’s poems often feel like whole landscapes, graciously embracing the widest view and the tiniest sequins at once . . . Her longtime practice of Soto Zen Buddhism and her commitments to scientific knowledge and respect blend to create some of the most important poetry in the world today.' - Naomi Shihab Nye, The New York Times Magazine
‘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)
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).
North America: Alfred A. Knopf
Ireland: Click here to order from Books Upstairs in Dublin