The Beauty, an incandescent new collection from one of American poetry’s most distinctive and essential voices, opens with a series of dappled, ranging “My” poems—“My Skeleton,” “My Corkboard,” “My Species,” “My Weather”—using materials sometimes familiar, sometimes unexpected, to explore the magnitude, singularity, and permeability of our shared existence. With a pen faithful to the actual yet dipped at times in the ink of the surreal, Hirshfield considers the inner and outer worlds we live in yet are not confined by; reflecting on advice given her long ago—to avoid the word “or”—she concludes, “Now I too am sixty. / There was no other life.” Hirshfield’s lines cut, as always, directly to the heart of human experience. Her robust affirmation of choice even amid inevitability, her tender consciousness of the unjudging beauty of what exists, her abiding contemplation of our moral, societal, and biological intertwinings, sustain poems that tune and retune the keys of a life. For this poet, “Zero Plus Anything Is a World.” Hirshfield’s riddling recipes for that world (“add salt to hunger”; “add time to trees”) offer a profoundly altered understanding of our lives’ losses and additions, and of the small and larger beauties we so often miss.
About the Author
JANE HIRSHFIELD is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Beauty;Come, Thief; After; and Given Sugar, Given Salt. She has edited and cotranslated four books presenting the work of poets from the past and is the author of two major collections of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. Her books have been finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize; they have been named best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon, and Financial Times; and they have won the California Book Award, the Poetry Center Book Award, and the Donald Hall–Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Hirshfield has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, Poetry, Orion, Discover, The American Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, the Pushcart Prize anthology, and eight editions of The Best American Poetry. A resident of Northern California since 1974, she is a current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
“Gracefully evocative … [Hirshfield’s] pithy and disarming lyrics have a touch of Dickinson about them as she sets human dilemmas within nature’s perpetual surge...[her] contemplative acuity, erudite imagination, and exceptional fluency in image and language make for a beautifully agile and sage volume.”— Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
“An exquisite collection that displays her talents of observation and her willingness to look at life through the lens of hindsight.” —Anisse Gross, The San Francisco Gate “Hirshfield’s new poems emerge as fiercely strong yet tender, drawing on supple intuition and clarifying intelligence to evoke the richness of her authentic inner life. Hirshfield sees beyond self, perceiving fresh perspectives flowing through our permeability and interconnection.” —Robert Bonazzi, World Literature Today
“The Beauty composes the ordinary fruit, in the ordinary kitchen, the ants, the towels, the hopes, the loss, the way we humans believe and lose faith, all of it contained in the hours of every single ordinary day, and renders it beautiful, noticeable.” —Kirsten Rian, The Oregonian
"Throughout The Beauty, her gracefully evocative eighth book of poems, Hirshfield is archly witty and riddling. In “My Skeleton,” for example, she offers a fresh and startling look at our relationship with our bodies, a subject rooted in her fascination with perception, science, and underlying structures of all kinds. Her succinct and arresting observations—often framed within such everyday moments as waking in the morning and sitting in a kitchen, and inspired by the subtle wonders of honey, cellophane, church bells, even the journey of a common cold—swerve suddenly and exhilaratingly onto metaphysical terrain. Her pithy and disarming lyrics have a touch of Dickinson about them as she sets human dilemmas within nature’s perpetual surge: “Generation. / Strange word: both making and passing.” Hirshfield’s contemplative acuity, erudite imagination, and exceptional fluency in image and language make for a beautifully agile and sage volume." — Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)
"The Beauty, Jane Hirshfield's eighth collection, reveals a poet at the height of her powers. With her signature use of deceptively simple images and language, she hints at the unspoken truths that lie just beyond our perspective while celebrating the everyday details and connections that make a life. . . While many of these poems are brief, they are masterpieces in miniature. Their images are simple but not obvious; they are offered without judgment. They also reward contemplation. Hirshfield asks her readers to wait for their own reactions, suggesting that those reactions matter because they open the door to the poem's meaning, and because they unite us all. --Jeanette Zwart, Shelf Awareness