Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World

by Jane Hirshfield


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385351058
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/17/2015
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 7.40(w) x 5.00(h) x 1.40(d)

About the Author

JANE HIRSHFIELD is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Beauty; Come, Thief; After; and Given Sugar, Given Salt. She has edited and cotranslated four books presenting the work of poets from the past and is the author of two major collections of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. Her books have been finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize; they have been named best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon, and Financial Times; and they have won the California Book Award, the Poetry Center Book Award, and the Donald Hall–Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Hirshfield has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, The New Republic, and eight editions of The Best American Poetry. A resident of Northern California since 1974, she is a current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Read an Excerpt

Ten Windows

How Great Poems Transform the World

By Jane Hirshfield

Random House LLC

Copyright © 2015 Jane Hirshfield
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-385-35105-8


Good art is a truing of vision, in the way a saw is trued in the saw shop, to cut more cleanly. It is also a changing of vision. Entering a good poem, a person feels, tastes, hears, thinks, and sees in altered ways. Why ask art into a life at all, if not to be transformed and enlarged by its presence and mysterious means? Some hunger for more is in us—more range, more depth, more feeling; more associative freedom, more beauty. More perplexity and more friction of interest. More prismatic grief and unstunted delight, more longing, more darkness. More saturation and permeability in knowing our own existence as also the existence of others. More capacity to be astonished. Art adds to the sum of the lives we would have, were it possible to live without it. And by changing selves, one by one, art changes also the outer world that selves create and share.

This book continues the investigation begun in an earlier volume, "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry". The questions pursued by poems themselves are speckled, partial, and infinite. These books, though, pursue as well a single question: How do poems—how does art—work? Under that question, inevitably, is another: How do we? Inside the intricate clockworks of language and music, event and life, what allows and invites us to feel and know as we do, and then increase our feeling and knowing? Such a question cannot be answered. "We" are different, from one another and, moment by moment, from even ourselves. "Art," too, is a word deceptively single of surface. Still, following this question for thirty years has given me pleasure, and some sense of approaching more nearly a destination whose center cannot ever be mapped or reached.


Excerpted from Ten Windows by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright © 2015 Jane Hirshfield. Excerpted by permission of Random House LLC, a division of Random House, Inc.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Preface vii

Chapter 1 Kingfishers Catching Fire: Looking with Poetry's Eyes 3

Chapter 2 Language Wakes Up in the Morning: On Poetry's Speaking 23

Chapter 3 Seeing Through Words: An Introduction to Basho, Haiku, and the Suppleness of Image 49

Chapter 4 Thoreau's Hound: Poetry and the Hidden 93

Chapter 5 Uncarryahle Remainders: Poetry and Uncertainty 121

Chapter 6 Close Reading; Windows 151

Chapter 7 Poetry and the Constellation of Surprise 181

Chapter 8 What Is American in Modern American Poetry: a Brief Primer with Poems 209

Chapter 9 Poetry, Transformation, and the Column of Tears 243

Chapter 10 Strange Reaches, Impossibility, and Big Hidden Drawers: Poetry and Paradox 273

Acknowledgments 301

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