|Born||February 24, 1953|
New York City
|Alma mater||Princeton University|
Jane Hirshfield (born 24 February 1953) is an American poet, essayist, and translator.
Life and work
Hirshfield's nine books of poetry have received numerous awards. Her fifth book, Given Sugar, Given Salt, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and her sixth collection, After, was shortlisted for the "T.S. Eliot Prize" (UK) and named a 'best book of 2006' by The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Financial Times. Her eighth collection, The Beauty, was long-listed for the National Book Award and named a 'best book of 2015' by The San Francisco Chronicle. She has written two books of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. The Ink Dark Moon, her co-translation of the work of the two foremost women poets of classical-era Japan, was instrumental in bringing tanka (a 31-syllable Japanese poetic form) to the attention of American poets. She has edited four books collecting the work of poets from the past and is noted as being "part of a wave of important scholarship then seeking to recover the forgotten history of women writers." She received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1985, the Academy of American Poets' 2004 Fellowship for Distinguished Achievement, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in 2005, and the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Award in American Poetry in 2012.
Though never a full-time academic, Hirshfield has taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of San Francisco, The Bennington Writing Seminars, and as the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati. She was the Hellman Visiting Artist in 2013 in the Neuroscience Department at University of California, San Francisco, and Stanford University's 2016 Mohr Visiting Professor in Poetry. She has also taught at many writers conferences, including Bread Loaf and the Napa Valley Writers Conference and has served as both core and associate faculty in the Bennington Master of Fine Arts Writing Seminars. Hirshfield appears frequently in literary festivals both in America and abroad, including the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival, the National Book Festival, the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, Poetry International (London, UK), the China Poetry Festival (Xi'an, China), and the Second International Gathering of the Poets [Kraków, Poland]. She has received numerous residency fellowships, including from Yaddo, The MacDowell Colony, The Rauschenberg Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center, Civitella Ranieri, and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. She is also a contributing editor at The Alaska Quarterly Review and Ploughshares, a former guest editor of The Pushcart Prize Anthology and an advisory editor at Orion and Tricycle.
Hirshfield served as a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2012-2017).
In 2019, Hirshfield was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
David Baker described Hirshfield as "one of our finest, most memorable contemporary poets" and U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan called Hirshfield "a true person of letters". Hirshfield's poetry has often been described as sensuous, insightful, and clear. In the award citation for Hirshfield's 2004 Academy of American Poets' Fellowship, Rosanna Warren noted
Hirshfield has elaborated a sensuously philosophical art that imposes a pause in our fast-forward habits of mind. Her poems appear simple, and are not. Her language, in its cleanliness and transparency, poses riddles of a quietly metaphysical nature. Clause by clause, image by image, in language at once mysterious and commonplace, Hirshfield's poems clear a space for reflection and change. They invite ethical awareness, and establish a delicate balance.
The comment is echoed by the Polish Nobel Prize poet Czeslaw Milosz, who wrote, "A profound empathy for the suffering of all living beings... It is precisely this I praise in the poetry of Jane Hirshfield. The subject of her poetry is our ordinary life among other people and our continuing encounter with everything Earth brings us: trees, flowers, animals, and birds…In its highly sensuous detail, her poetry illuminates the Buddhist virtue of mindfulness."
Hirshfield's poetry reflects her immersion in a wide range of poetic traditions, both Asian and Western, interests found also in the essays of Nine Gates and Ten Windows. Polish, Scandinavian, and Eastern European poets have been particularly important to her, along with the poetry of Japan and China. Zbigniew Herbert's poem, "Pebble" stands as a model behind the small studies Hirshfield has labelled "pebbles", included in After and Come, Thief.
Hirshfield's work consistently explores themes of social justice and environmental awareness, specifically the belief that natural world and human world are inextricably linked. Mark A. Eaton noted in The Dictionary of Literary Biography that "Hirshfield's work recognizes the full breadth and responsibilities of humans' transactions with the earth, not just the intimacies." Donna Seaman, reviewing Hirshfield's ninth collection, Ledger, described Hirshfield’s “carefully weighted tone as she reckons with our constant subtraction of Earth’s life forces and incessant addition of carbon to our atmosphere, acid to our seas.”  Hirshfield has become an increasingly visible spokesperson for peace, justice, and environmental issues. In a review of her seventh collection,Come, Thief, Afaa M. Weaver wrote that her poems "find a middle ground between the larger landscape of political conflict and the personal landscape of our need to connect with one another." Hirshfield's voice as a spokesperson for peace, justice, and environmental issues has become increasing visible, with her work concluding the Library of America's "War No More: Three Hundred Years of American Antiwar and Peace Writing" and appearing in many other collections of poems of social awareness.
An article in Critical Survey of Poetry (2002) summarized the effect of Zen on Hirshfield's work:
Little of her poetry is political in the usual sense of direct comment on specific issues, but all her work is political in the sense of integrating the stirrings of the heart, with the political realities that surround all people. Undoubtedly, the source for these characteristics of her poetry, and for her very concept of what poetry is, "the magnification of being," derives from her strong Zen Buddhist training. Her emphasis on compassion, on the preexistent unity of subject and object, on nature, on the self-sufficient suchness of being, and on the daunting challenge of accepting transitoriness, as Peter Harris notes, are central themes in her poetry derived from Buddhism. Hirshfield does not, however, burden her poetry with heavy, overt Zen attitudes. Only occasionally is there any direct reference.
While many reviewers mention, even make central, Hirshfield's Buddhism as the prevailing filter of her work, Hirshfield has expressed frustration in multiple interviews with being so labeled. "I always feel a slight dismay if I'm called a "Zen" poet. I am not. I am a human poet, that's all." Lisa Russ Spaar has called Hirshfield "a visionary", continuing: "It is arguable that the riddle, the existential joke of being, of meaning, of Dickinson's "prank of the Heart at play on the Heart," is as powerful a source as song for the lyric poem. Central to Hirshfield's vision is a kind of holy delight that is at the heart of riddles and koans".
Other reviewers note the investigative nature of Hirshfield's poems, in which life is approached as a puzzle which is not quite solveable. In a review of Come, Thief in The Georgia Review, Judith Kitchen wrote "Jane Hirshfield's felt longing elevates description to insight: not self-knowledge, less fleeting than that... something more encompassing, more akin to the indefinable suddenly given expression."
For all her focus on insight and the unknowable, as early as 1995, Stephen Yenser noted in The Yale Review Hirshfield's interest in the empirical. "The probably unspeakeable plenitude of the empirical world: Jane Hirshfield's poems recognize it at every point." In a Booklist starred review, Donna Seaman has more recently noted Hirshfield's "meticulous reasoning, including a striking meditation on the paradoxical richness of spareness that can serve as her ars poetica."
Hirshfield's poems and life increasingly reflect her long-standing interest in biology, as well as physics and other fields of science. She was the 2013 Hellman Visiting Artist in the Neuroscience department at The University of California, San Francisco, a program "created to foster dialogue between scientists, caregivers, patients, clinicians and the public regarding creativity and the brain." In 2010, she was the Blue River Fellow in the H.J. Andrews Experimental Forest's Long Term Ecological Reflection project, whose goal is to track scientific research and artistic responses to the same sites for 200 years.
In 2017, Hirshfield organized a Poets For Science component for the main D.C. March for Science held on Earth Day, April 22, on the Washington Mall. As a main rally speaker, she read "On the Fifth Day", a poem protesting the January 24, 2017, removal of scientific information from federal agency websites. The poem appeared on the front page of the Washington Post's Opinion Section a week before the March. Working with the Wick Poetry Center based at Kent State University in Ohio, Hirshfield arranged also for a Poets For Science tent to be part of the teach-in preceding the March, in which scientists and their supporters were invited both to read and to write their own scientifically-grounded poems. Poets For Science activities from the March and into the future are hosted on the Wick Poetry Center's website. Video of Hirshfield's reading at the March for Science.
While her work looks deeply at the inner world of the self and emotions, Hirshfield has kept most of the details of her private life out of both her poems and her public life as a poet, preferring that her work stand on its own.
Hirshfield's work has been published in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, the Times Literary Supplement, the New York Times, many literary journals, and multiple volumes of The Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies. Her poems have frequently been read on various National Public Radio programs, and she was featured in two Bill Moyers PBS television specials, The Sounds of Poetry and Fooling With Words. An interview with Hirshfield on the occasion of the publication of "The Beauty" and "Ten Windows" in March 2015 was published in SF Gate. Extended conversations with fellow poets Ilya Kaminsky (The Paris Review), Kaveh Akbar (The American Poetry Review), and Mark Doty (Guernica) appeared in conjunction with the publication of Ledger in 2020.
- Hirshfield, Jane (1982). Alaya. Quarterly Review of Literature. ISBN 0614063973.
- Of Gravity & Angels (HarperCollins, 1988), winner of the California Book Award in Poetry
- The October Palace (HarperCollins, 1994), winner of the Poetry Center Book Award
- The Lives of the Heart (HarperCollins,1997), winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award
- Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001), finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award
- Pebbles & Assays (Brooding Heron Press), 2004
- Each Happiness Ringed by Lions (Bloodaxe Books UK, 2005)
- After (HarperCollins, 2006), (Bloodaxe Books UK, 2006)
- Come, Thief: Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 5 February 2013. ISBN 978-0-375-71207-4.
- minus/my-ness (Missing Links Press), 2014. ISBN 978-0-9899228-3-8.
- The Beauty: Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 17 March 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-35108-9.
- Ledger: Poems. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 10 March 2020. ISBN 9780525657804.
List of poems
|Title||Year||First published||Reprinted/collected in|
|"In a kitchen where mushrooms were washed"||2011||Hirshfield, Jane (Fall 2011). "In a kitchen where mushrooms were washed". Ploughshares. 37 (2&3).||Hirshfield, Jane (2013). "In a kitchen where mushrooms were washed". In Henderson, Bill (ed.). The Pushcart Prize XXXVII : best of the small presses 2013. Pushcart Press. p. 295.|
|"Husband"||2015||Hirshfield, Jane (April 13, 2015). "Husband". The New Yorker. Vol. 91 no. 8. p. 48. Retrieved 2015-06-21.|
|"Engraving: World-Tree with an Empty Beehive on One Branch"||2016||Hirshfield, Jane (June 12, 2016). "Engraving: World tree with an empty beehive on one branch". The New York Times T Magazine. Retrieved 2016-06-18.|
- Komachi, Ono no; Shikibu, Izumi (1990). Hirshfield, Jane; Aratani, Mariko (eds.). The ink dark moon : love poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, women of the ancient Court of Japan. Vintage Classics.
- Hirshfield, Jane, ed. (1994). Women in praise of the sacred : forty-three centuries of spiritual poetry by women. Vintage Classics.
- Jane Hirshfield (26 August 1998). Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-092948-0.
- Robert Bly; Jane Hirshfield, eds. (2004). Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems. Beacon Press. ISBN 978-0-8070-6386-6.
- The Heart of Haiku (Kindle Single, 2011) 
- Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. 17 March 2015. ISBN 978-0-385-35106-5.
Honors and awards
- The Poetry Center Book Award
- The California Book Award
- Fellowship, Guggenheim Foundation
- Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation,
- Fellowship, Academy of American Poets
- Fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts
- Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry
- Columbia University's Translation Center Award
- Commonwealth Club of California Poetry Medal
- Bay Area Book Reviewers Award
- Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement from The Academy of American Poets (2004)
- Finalist, T. S. Eliot Prize
- Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award
- Long-list National Book Award
- Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets (2012-2017)
- elected, American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2019)
- Bryson, J. Scott; Thompson, Roger, eds. (2008). Twentieth-century American nature poets. Detroit, MI: Gale Cengage Learning. pp. 178–184. ISBN 978-0-7876-8160-9. LCCN 2008022299. OCLC 229446118. OL 11095126M.
- Busch, Colleen Morton (2011). Fire Monks: Zen Mind Meets Wildfire at the Gates of Tassajara. New York: Penguin Press. p. 15. ISBN 978-1-59420-291-9. LCCN 2011010226. OCLC 682892561. OL 25108970M.
- Kellogg, Carolyn (2015-09-15). "National Book Award poetry longlist announced". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
- "Best of 2015: 100 recommended books". SFChronicle.com. 2015-12-15. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Mark A. Eaton, "Twentieth-Century American Nature Poets". Ed. J. Scott Bryson and Roger Thompson. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 342. Detroit: Gale, 2008.)
- Academy of American Poets' 2004 Fellowship
- Jane Hirshfield profile, Academy of American Poets, accessed January 15, 2007
- "Index of Fellows on Portable MacDowell - The MacDowell Colony". www.MacDowellColony.org. Archived from the original on May 26, 2009. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Past Residents". RauschenbergFoundation.org. October 15, 2014. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Civitella Rainieri". Civitella.org. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Djerassi Resident Artists Program
- "Djerassi Resident Artists Program | Jane Hirshfield". Djerassi Resident Artists Program. Retrieved 2018-05-31.
- "Newly Elected Members". amacad.org. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
- David Baker, The American Poet, spring 2005.
- Kay Ryan, from the Academy of American Poets' New Chancellor 2012 Press Release, reprinted in The American Poet
- Czeslaw Milosz, Prze Kroj (Poland), quoted in Reader's Almanac, Library of America October 12, 2012
- "A Conversation between Brian Bouldrey & Jane Hirshfield, Pt. 3". The Best American Poetry. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- Seaman, Donna (March 15, 2020). Ledger. Booklist. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
- Reviewed by Afaa M. Weaver (October 25, 2011). "Come, Thief". Orion Magazine. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- "War No More: Three Centuries of American Antiwar & Peace Writing - Library of America". www.LOA.org. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Poems of Resistance: A Primer". The New York Times. April 21, 2017. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Alter, Alexandra (April 21, 2017). "American Poets, Refusing to Go Gentle, Rage Against the Right". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Peter Harris. "About Jane Hirshfield: A Profile". www.pshares.org. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- Kim Rosen (2013-04-01). "Poet Jane Hirshfield on the Mystery of Existence". spiritualityhealth.com. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- "Monday's Poems: Three by Jane Hirshfield". The Chronicle of Higher Education. September 24, 2011. Archived from the original on 2011-11-05. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- Kitchen, Judith. "Jane Hirshfield's Come, Thief". The Georgia Review Summer 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2014.
- Stephen Yenser, The Yale Review (April 1995) pp 147-152
- Catherine (July 12, 2011). "Meet the 2011 Faculty: Jane Hirshfield". www.NapaWritersConference.org. Archived from the original on 2013-01-13. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Hellman Visiting Artist Program, UCSF Memory and Ageing centre". Memory and Aging Center. Archived from the original on 2012-04-05. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- "About Andrews Forest Art & Humanities - Andrews Forest Log". AndrewsForestLog.org. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Jane Hirshfield (April 14, 2017). "On the Fifth Day". The Washington Post.
- Dana Isokawa (April 19, 2017). "The Two Feet of One Walking: Poets March for Science". Poets & Writers Magazine. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- North, Anna (April 23, 2017). "Opinion - Making Art at the March for Science". The New York Times. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- "Science Stanzas: The March for Science › Poets for Science". Science Stanzas: The March for Science. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Earth Day Network (April 24, 2017). "March for Science Earth Day 2017 Speaker - Jane Hirshfield". Retrieved January 29, 2018 – via YouTube.
- "Hirshfield profile". HarperCollins. Retrieved 2020-03-09.
- "Interview with poet Jane Hirshfield". SFGate.com. 2015-03-12. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Kaminsky, Ilya (11 March 2020). "A Poem Is Not a Frontal Assault: An Interview with Jane Hirshfield". The Paris Review. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
- Akbar, Kaveh (March 2020). "On Writing Poems Facing Into the Broken World". The American Poetry Review Volume 49, No. 02. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
- Doty, Mark (30 April 2020). "The Worlds We Find Ourselves In: Mark Doty and Jane Hirshfield in Conversation". Guernica. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
- "Amazon.com: The Heart of Haiku (Kindle Single) eBook: Jane Hirshfield: Kindle Store". www.Amazon.com. Retrieved January 29, 2018.
- Peschel, Joseph (May 25, 2015). "Caution: World-Changing Poetry at Work". The Daily Beast. Retrieved January 29, 2018 – via www.TheDailyBeast.com.
- "Jane Hirshfield". poets.org. Retrieved 2019-05-08.
This article's use of external links may not follow Wikipedia's policies or guidelines. (January 2018)
- Profile at Poetry Archive
- Profile at Poetry Foundation
- Hirshfield on Poetry Everywhere, reading For What Binds Us at the Geraldine R. Dodge festival (video; 2:17)
- Jane Hirshfield reading from new work at the 2010 Key West Literary Seminar (audio; 16:09)
- Jane Hirshfield's Web pages at the Steven Barclay Agency Web site
- Jane Hirshfield's poems at Slate
- Jane Hirshfield's poems in The New Yorker
- Jane Hirshfield's poems in The Atlantic
- Jane Hirshfield's essay, "Justice: Four Windows" in the Virginia Quarterly Review
- Best American Poetry interview on the publication of Come Thief, "A Conversation with Brian Bouldrey" Part 1, part 2, part 3
- Hirshfield's interview and reading at the Scottish Poetry Library,spring, 2012
- "Why Write Poetry?" (with Jane Haupt) in Psychology Today, January, 2014
- Hirshfield's interview with Kaveh Akbar in "Divedapper", March 21, 2016