Earthly Measures

Earthly Measures

by Edward Hirsch

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The measures of Hirsch's ( The Night Parade ) fourth book of poetry are anything but earthly. These poems court the extremes of experience from transcendence to acedia: the moment of death, spiritual crisis, intense nostalgia. The lofty reach of the poems derives in part from the poet's chosen subjects; many of them portray, in verse narrative, episodes from the lives of Simone Weil, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Leopardi and Henry James. He generally brings great insight and sympathy to the writers and thinkers he imagines. However, one can find ``something strained / and oracular in these incandescent vistas / and glowing atmospherics.'' At times, the tone plunges from high drama to melodrama, or to farce, as in his villanelle, ``The Romance of American Communism.'' Elsewhere, Hirsch renders intimate moments with affecting emotional precision: ``As we stood by the window in a waning light / Or touched and moved away from each other / And turned back to our books. But it remained / Even so, like the thought of a coal fading / On the upper left-hand side of our chests, / A destination that we bore within ourselves.'' The poet rarely stays at home. His poems inhabit a distinctly poetic landscape of old European churches, burnt-out midwestern cities and slumberous suburban tracts. Though, like an expressionist painter, Hirsch has a weakness for the rarefied and poetic moment, we should be grateful for his often profound identification with human dilemmas. (Feb.)
Library Journal
These intimate and sensuous poems move from a rejection of the city, with its ``skulls of buildings,'' ``discarded carcasses of Fords and Chevys,'' and smog like ``crumbled bits of charcoal/ in the air,'' to a profoundly spiritual quest for the absolute. There is a deep hunger for divinity here, for a god the poet ``had wanted/ so long and so much to believe in.'' The best poems in this magnificent collection pay homage to those writers and artists who have come closest to the divine: Paul Celan, Simone Weil, St. Francis, Caravaggio, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Henry James, and Wallace Stevens. Hirsch admires these artists because they all appreciated the ``bountiful emptiness of everything,'' a bounty the poet finds in the birth of his son, the jazz solos of Art Pepper, Dutch still-life paintings, and memories of the first snowfall, epiphanies when he truly lived ``in the fullness of the moment''--as will the reader of Earthly Measures . Highly recommended.-- Daniel L. Guillory, Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill.

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Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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5.80(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.29(d)

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