Like a virtuoso pianist who makes a difficult piece sound easy to play, Hirsch writes poems that flow with a captivating directness and ease. Using a simple vocabulary, a sometimes intimate, conversational tone, he creates succinct and powerful pieces in which an honest voice speaks without affectation. It is a voice of affirmation, expressing ``wild gratitude'' for life with all its beauty, complexity and terror. Writing of a friend dying of cancer at 37, Hirsch finds an objective correlative in a windy October night, full of falling leaves and rain, which transports the reader from the particular to the universal. In ``Commuters,'' he writes about a man who stands outside himself watching himself get off a commuter train and into his car. Repetition and precise description of the man's movements capture perfectly his sense of dislocation and alienation. This volume of 32 poems, part of the Knopf Poetry Series, is an admirable successor to Hirsch's first, highly praised book, For the Sleepwalkers. January 23
Some of Hirsch's poems are inventive, like ``The Night Parade'' in which he imagines a ``vice president of sleep,'' or ``I Need Help,'' where he wants ``to build a new kind of machine/ For flying out of the body at night.'' But he can also give us documentary poems on urban life, featuring a commuter ``buckled into a steel box . . . trying/ Not to panic'' and a bag lady ``sprawled out on a steaming vent for warmth.'' In ``Sleepwatch'' and ``Unhappy Love Poem,'' he writes moving confessions about family and marriage. Hirsch concludes with a splendid group of poems about East European fugitives, like the Hungarian who went to Vienna ``with a suitcase of bruised manuscripts, a stick of salami . . . and thirty shillings.'' Wild Gratitude offers poetic surprises on every page. Highly recommended. Daniel L. Guillory, English Dept., Millikin Univ., Decatur, Ill .