Straightforward and precise, these poems, almost exclusively in narrative form, beckon the reader with their immediacy. Gracefully confirming the inextricable links between self and family, Hirsch, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for Wild Gratitude , is, at his best, captivating, transforming tremendous respect for and fascination with his Eastern European roots and Chicago upbringing into enlightened, richly detailed verse that artfully side-steps sentimentality. Less favorable works are static, insulated: like home movies when forced upon a nonrelative, they unfortunately exclude and occasionally bore. When Hirsch ventures outside his own experiences, the most ambitious example of this being ``And Who Will Look Upon Our Testimony,'' a long poem ostensibly about black death in 14th century Europe, he demonstrates his acuity as an observer and poet: `` `In the midst of this pestilence, there came / To an end . . .' / Fortunate are those who come afterward, / The unfallen inheritors of earth / Who turn away from the Dance / Of Death dying in the mind.'' With humility and passion, Hirsch illumes the contradictory resilience and weakness of the human spirit. Apr.
A majority of the poems in Hirsch's third collection are ``memorandums of affections,'' homages to a personal family saga of hard work and migration, sacrifice, and change. The aim is to tell those ``stories that define us to ourselves/ As we go lurching into the future.'' But whether attending to the homey details of his childhood ``Nancy and Lenie are taking turns riding/ On the handlebars of my J.C. Higgins bicycle'' or the aftermath of the Chicago Fire ``A muddy black settlement/On the plain'', Hirsch's touch is deft, appropriate, even surprising, as when siblings are described as ``simultaneities sharing/A father and mother.'' While these days hoards of younger poets ransack their grandparents' photo albums for ideas, few are able to encapsulate their histories as vividly or movingly.-- Fred Muratori, Cornell Univ. Lib.