From the Publisher
“A deep well full of strength and wisdom.” —The New York Times
“Vibrant . . . This celebrated American poet clearly savors the material world but does not shy away from seeing past it . . . In these clear-eyed and luminous poems, she has borrowed from the great Tang Dynasty masters and fused style and philosophical outlook into a fresh way of representing experience.”—The Washington Post
“Passionate yet controlled poems.” —The Times Literary Supplement
“Hirshfield’s lucid poems are philosophical and sensuous, concise yet mysterious. Ruefully funny and irreverently reverent. They are also gloriously earthy as she looks deeply at trees, animals, insects, and our own wondrous if betraying bodies . . . Wittily deductive and metaphysically resplendent, Hirshfield’s supple and knowing poems reflect her long view, her quest for balance, and her exuberant participation in the circle dance of existence.” —Booklist
“Buddhism and aphorism, outdoor delights and indoor wisdom have all attracted readers to Hirshfield’s spare and approachable lines; the poet navigates securely between praise and advice, mostly in clearly quotable form.” —Publishers Weekly
“In Come, Thief, poet Jane Hirshfield focuses on the lovely but overlooked things in everyday life: stones that are beautiful only when wet, maples setting down their red leaves, the rosy and gold and stippled pattern of her grandfather’s watch. Using clear, straightforward language, she finds the meaning in what could be—in less observant hands—the meaningless, often with a flash of unexpected humor.” —Oprah.com
“Significant is that the smallest thought can house the largest idea. The universe can be found in a drop of rain or a grain of sand, but we have to know what to look for and how to see. Then there is belief. These poems start with the belief that we have the capacity that the poet has, and it requires a kind of faith in the reader.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books
“[Hirshfield] is a visionary. Rarely making spirituality and her own long Zen practice her overt subject, Hirshfield nonetheless makes poems which possess a subtle lucidity that is accessible and understated on the one hand, and suffused with a resonant “beyonding” of the self and the quotidian on the other. Her poems press the experiential . . . in order to transcend soma and solipsism.” —The Chronicle of Higher Education
“The best writers linger over every word, and each line break and segue from image to image; Hirshfield is clearly one of our most precise, careful poets. And Come, Thief , with its flawless construction, is the kind of book that can inhabit you, can even begin to color how you see the particulars of the world. These poems wear a kind of detached delight on their sleeves.” —Basalt Magazine
“Her seventh volume of poetry, Come, Thief, lures readers into a world rich with alchemical reflections and personal metaphoric revelations. Her verse explores the bitter sweetness of morality through breathtaking details found in the natural world and cradles the reader close with profound simplicity.” —Pacific Sun
Come, Thief is a book of silences…But it's a mistake to take the book's quiet for reticence, because Thief…is a deep well full of strength and wisdom.
The New York Times
…Hirshfield's verse involves a deepening attention to every aspect of human experience, from the dailiness of our lives to the most ineffable moments. In these clear-eyed and often luminous poems, she has borrowed a page from the great Tang Dynasty masters…and fused style and philosophical outlook into a fresh way of representing experience.
The Washington Post
Buddhism and aphorism, outdoor delights and indoor wisdom have all attracted readers to Hirshfield's spare and approachable lines; the poet navigates securely between praise and advice, mostly in clearly quotable form. "Wrong solitude vinegars the soul,/ right solitude oils it." "How happy we are,/ how unhappy we are, doesn't matter./ The stone turtle listens. The famished horse runs." Allegorical scenes like bare stage sets introduce elegant observations in conversational free verse, in words drawn from common American speech: sometimes the results sting, sometimes they end up sweet, and sometimes they end up too sweet, faux-profound ("Hearts stop in more ways than one"). More often, though, Hirshfield (Nine Gates) can speak to many lives in just a few phrases, mixing in ancient fashion the fires of consolation with the lights of warning, as in her three-line poem "Sonoma Fire," which ends on "The griefs of others—beautiful at a distance." Admirers of Mary Oliver, of the early works of Louise Glück, and even of Kay Ryan might find more pages to cherish. (Aug.)
Early in her career, National Book Critics Award finalist Hirshfield (Given Sugar, Given Salt) became interested in Japanese literature. One can see this influence in her latest work, a collection of generally short nature poems with an epiphany in which the poet manages to get to the heart of an experience. The best of the poems examine the complex and often metaphysical relationships between the poet and her surroundings. In Zenlike tones, they notice telling details as experienced in ordinary moments that nevertheless seem connected to the transcendent. Take "The Supple Deer," for instance: the narrator watches deer gracefully jumping through an opening in the fence, noting in an especially resonate metaphor how the deer seem to pour like an arc of water. The poem ends wistfully as the poet wishes to be as "porous" as the deer, allowing the world to pass through her. VERDICT Although sometimes the connections suggested by Hirshfield's metaphors are tenuous, these are mostly powerful poems in which each word adds resonance.—Diane Scharper, Towson Univ., MD
Read an Excerpt
Come, Thief Poems
By Jane Hirshfield
Knopf Copyright © 2013 Jane Hirshfield
All right reserved.
For a few days only,
the plum tree outside the window
No matter the plums will be small,
eaten only by squirrels and jays.
I feast on the one thing, they on another,
the shoaling bees on a third.
What in this unpleated world isn’t someone’s seduction?
The boy playing his intricate horn in Mahler’s Fifth,
in the gaps between playing,
turns it and turns it, dismantles a section,
shakes from it the condensation
of human passage. He is perhaps twenty.
Later he takes his four bows, his face deepening red,
while a girl holds a viola’s spruce wood and maple
in one -half--opened hand and looks at him hard.
Let others clap.
These two, their ears still ringing, hear nothing.
Not the shouts of bravo, bravo,
not the timpanic clamor inside their bodies.
As the plum’s blossoms do not hear the bee
nor taste themselves turned into storable honey
by that sumptuous disturbance.
"First Light Edging Cirrus"
to call wood thrush or apple.
A hummingbird, fewer.
A wristwatch: 1024.
An alphabet’s molecules,
tasting of honey, iron, and salt,
cannot be counted—
as some strings, untouched,
sound when a near one is speaking.
So it was when love slipped inside us.
It looked out face to face in every direction.
Then it was inside the tree, the rock, the cloud.
There is a moment before a shape
hardens, a color sets.
Before the fixative or heat of kiln.
The letter might still be taken
from the mailbox.
The hand held back by the elbow,
the word kept between the larynx pulse
and the amplifying -drum--skin of the room’s air.
The thorax of an ant is not as narrow.
The green coat on old copper weighs more.
Yet something slips through it—
sets out in the new direction, for other lands.
Not into exile, not into hope. Simply changed.
As a sandy -track--rut changes when called a Silk Road:
it cannot be after turned back from.
"Vinegar and Oil"
Wrong solitude vinegars the soul,
right solitude oils it.
How fragile we are, between the few good moments.
Coming and going unfinished,
puzzled by fate,
like the -half--carved relief
of a fallen donkey, above a church door in Finland.
"The Tongue Says Loneliness"
The tongue says loneliness, anger, grief,
but does not feel them.
As Monday cannot feel Tuesday,
reach back to Wednesday
as a mother reaches out for her found child.
As this life is not a gate, but the horse plunging through it.
Not a bell,
but the sound of the bell in the -bell--shape,
lashing full strength with the first blow from inside the iron.
Excerpted from Come, Thief by Jane Hirshfield Copyright © 2013 by Jane Hirshfield. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc.
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