The Beauty

The Beauty

by Jane Hirshfield


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The Beauty, an incandescent new collection from one of  American poetry’s most distinctive and essential voices, opens with a series of dappled, ranging “My” poems—“My Skeleton,” “My Corkboard,” “My Species,” “My Weather”—using materials sometimes familiar, sometimes unexpected, to explore the magnitude, singularity, and permeability of our shared existence. With a pen faithful to the actual yet dipped at times in the ink of the surreal, Hirshfield considers the inner and outer worlds we live in yet are not confined by; reflecting on advice given her long ago—to avoid the word “or”—she concludes, “Now I too am sixty. / There was no other life.” Hirshfield’s lines cut, as always, directly to the heart of human experience. Her robust affirmation of choice even amid inevitability, her tender consciousness of the unjudging beauty of what exists, her abiding contemplation of our moral, societal, and biological intertwinings, sustain poems that tune and retune the keys of a life. For this poet, “Zero Plus Anything Is a World.” Hirshfield’s riddling recipes for that world (“add salt to hunger”; “add time to trees”) offer a profoundly altered understanding of our lives’ losses and additions, and of the small and larger beauties we so often miss. 

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780385351072
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/17/2015
Pages: 128
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.80(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 have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post, The New York Times, Harper’s Magazine, Poetry, Orion, Discover, The American Poetry Review, McSweeney’s, the Pushcart Prize anthologyand 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

My Eyes
An hour is not a house,
a life is not a house,
you do not go through them as if they were doors to another.
Yet an hour can have shape and proportion,
four walls, a ceiling.
An hour can be dropped like a glass.
Some want quiet as others want bread.
Some want sleep.
My eyes went to the window, as a cat or dog left alone does.
I Wake Early
I wake early,
make two cups of coffee,
drink one,
think, go back to sleep,
wake again, think,
drink the other.
To start a day over is a card game played for no money,
a ripe tomato,
a swimming cat.
Time here:
with milk and sugar,
big and unset as a table.
I wake twice.
Twice the window unbroken, transparent.
Twice the cat’s nose and ears above water.
Twice the war (my war)
is distant,
its children’s children are distant.
Zero Plus Anything Is a World
Four less one is three.
Three less two is one.
One less three is what, is who,
The first cell that learned to divide learned to subtract.
add salt to hunger.
add time to trees.
Zero plus anything is a world.
This one and no other,
by each breath changed.
add death to life.
love without swerve what this will bring.
Sister, father, mother, husband, daughter.
Like a cello forgiving one note as it goes,
then another.
Excerpted from The Beauty by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright © 2015 by Jane Hirshfield. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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