On Loveby Edward Hirsch
"Life has to have the plenitude of art," Edward Hirsch affirms in his fifth volume of poems, On Love, which further establishes him as a major artist. From its opening epigraph by Thomas Hardy and an initiating prayer for transformation, On Love takes up the subjects of separateness and fusion, autonomy and blur. The initial progression of fifteen shapely and passionate lyrics (including a sonnet about the poet at seven, a villanelle about the loneliness of a pioneer woman on the prairie, and an elegy for Amy Clampitt) opens out into a sequence of meditations about love. These arresting love poems are spoken by a gallery of historical figures from Denis Diderot, Heinrich Heine, Charles Baudelaire, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Gertrude Stein, Federico Garcia Lorca, Zora Neale Hurston, and Colette. Each anatomizes a different aspect of eros in poems uttered by a chorus of historical authorities that is also a lone lover's yearning voice. Personal, literary, On Love offers the most formally adept and moving poetry by the author Harold Bloom hails as utterly fresh, canonical, and necessary.
From the Hardcover edition.
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Read an Excerpt
My mother used to say, "Sit down, dear,
and don't cry. The worst thing for a woman
is her first man--the one who kills you.
After that, marriage becomes a long career."
Poor Sido! She never had another career
and she knew first-hand how love ruins you.
The seducer doesn't care about his woman,
even as he whispers endearments in her ear.
Never let anyone destroy your inner spirit.
Among all the forms of truly absurd courage
the recklessness of young girls is outstanding.
Otherwise there would be far fewer marriages
and even fewer affairs that overwhelm marriages.
Look at me: it's amazing I'm still standing
after what I went through with ridiculous courage.
I was made to suffer, but no one broke my spirit.
Every woman wants her adventure to be a feast
of ripening cherries and peaches, Marseilles figs,
hot-house grapes, champagne shuddering in crystal.
Happiness, we believe, is on sumptuous display.
But unhappiness writes a different kind of play.
The gypsy gazes down into a clear blue crystal
and sees rotten cherries and withered figs.
Trust me: loneliness, too, can be a feast.
Ardor is delicious, but keep your own room.
One of my husbands said: is it impossible
for you to write a book that isn't about love,
adultery, semi-incestuous relations, separation?
(Of course, this was before our own separation.)
He never understood the natural law of love,
the arc from the possible to the impossible...
I have extolled the tragedy of the bedroom.
We need exact descriptions of the first passion,
so pay attention to whatever happens to you.
Observe everything: love is greedy and forgetful.
By all means fling yourself wildly into life
(though sometimes you will be flung back by life)
but don't let experience make you forgetful
and be surprised by everything that happens to you.
We are creative creatures fuelled by passion.
One final thought about the nature of love.
Freedom should be the first condition of love
and work is liberating (a novel about love
cannot be written while you are making love).
Never underestimate the mysteries of love,
the eminent dignity of not talking about love.
Passionate attention is prayer, prayer is love.
Savor the world. Consume the feast with love.
"Two (Scholarly) Love Poems"
I Dead Sea Scrolls
I was like the words
on a papyrus apocryphon
buried in a cave at Qumran,
and you were the scholar
I had been waiting for
all my life, the one reader
who unravelled the scrolls
and understood the language
and deciphered its mysteries.
2 A Treatise on Ecstasy
Touching your body
I was like a rabbi pouring
over a treatise on ecstasy,
the message hidden in the scrolls.
I remember our delirium
as my fingers moved backwards
across the page, letter by letter,
word by word, sentence by sentence.
I was a devoted scholar
patiently tracing the secret
passages of a mysterious text.
Our room became a holy place
as my hands trembled
and my voice shook
when I recited the blessings
of a book that burst into flames.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Meet the Author
Edward Hirsch was born in Chicago in 1950 and educated at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania. His first book of poems, For the Sleepwalkers (1981), received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University. His second book of poems, Wild Gratitude (1986), received the National Book Critics Circle Award. His third, The Night Parade (1989), and his fourth, Earthly Measures (1994), were both listed as notable books of the year by the New York Times Book Review. He writes frequently for leading magazines and periodicals--among them American Poetry Review, DoubleTake, where he is editorial advisor in poetry, and The Paris Review--and he has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. He teaches at the University of Houston.
From the Hardcover edition.
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TO MY LOVE MY ONLY LOVE THAT I WILL ALWAYS LOVE AND WANT TO CHERISH FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE AND YOU MEAN THE WORLD TO ME AND YOU KNOW HOW MUCH I LOVE YOU TOO SO THERE I WANT TO SPEND THE REST OF MY LIFE WITH YOU AND ONLY YOU
Once in your lifetime You meet someone who touches your soul You set forth on unconditional love You lose youself, and all control Scored and insecure Still you saw something in me You brought me to life A person no one ever got to see You made it seem so easy But still held my hand the whole way through You knew it would be hard But you showed me what to do Now I am unafraid To lose myself, and let my feelings go I'm now one of the privileged few I can be true to myself, and let the real me show Now I can be open And you're the one that I thank For picking me up and loving the real me The day that my heart sank.