Ten Windows and The Beauty: New Work
Excerpted from Chapter One: Kingfishers Catching Fire: Looking with Poetry’s Eyes:
A mysterious quickening inhabits the depths of any good poem–protean, elusive, alive in its own right. The word “creative” shares its etymology with the word “creature,” and carries a similar sense of breathing aliveness of an active fine-grained, multi-cellulare making. What is creative is rooted in growth and rising, in the bringing into existence of new and autonomous being. We feel something stir, shiver, swim its way into the world when a good poem opens its eyes. Poetry’s work is not simply the recording of inner outer perception; it makes by words and music new possibilities of perceiving. Distinctive realms appear to us when we look and hear by poem-light. And these realms are clearly needed–there is no human culture that does not have its songs and poems.
One way we praise a work of art is to say it has “vision,” and good poetry and good seeing go together almost always. Yet before art’s more ground-level seeing can liberate itself into that other vision we speak of, a transfiguration is needed. The eyes and ears must learn to abandon the habits of useful serving and take up instead a participatory delight in their own ends. A work of art is not a piece of fruit lifted from a tree branch: it is a ripening collaboration of artist, receiver, and world…
There Is No Scraping Bottom
In certain styles of Chinese painting,
three diagonal brushstrokes balance a mountain.
Like that, the word for happiness
keeps inside it the word for chance. For haplessness, also.
You wanted to be ignorant, unknowing, thundersturck, gobsmacked.
Wanted to be brought to your knees
by the scent of mushrooms you couldn’t know whether to pick.
When the violent, brilliant goshawk,
excessive and unforgiving, drove you from her nesting,
The big, deaf bear in both lanes of the dark
was a grandmother’s fake pearl necklace suddenly real.
You are the stories of others
because your own were already inside you and you were still hungry.
You wanted to sleep in a house you could walk the outside of,
windowed and simple, and find on it one day a door––
green-peeling, padlocked––you’d never guessed at.
You found the house, you entered, ate there, slept.
But however you rummaged and plundered the inside,
that door, that blind-hinged door, kept opening elswhere
“Jane Hirshfield is a true person of letters__an eloquent and exacting poet, first, but in addition the author oenduring essays and influential translations and anthologies. A writer who demonstrates in every possible way that life matters.” Kay Ryan
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 co-translated 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 seven editions of The Best American Poetry. A resident of Northern California since 1974, she is a current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
To Learn More about Jane Hirshfield and her new work, click here: Knopf/Doubleday.
Jane Hirschfield in this Edition
POETRY: Ten Windows and The Beauty