The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems

The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems

by Edward Hirsch
The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems

The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems

by Edward Hirsch


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A comprehensive selection of one of our most beloved poet’s rich and significant body of work alongside a gathering of “brilliant, deeply pleasurable” new poems (Booklist).

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375710032
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/20/2011
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Edward Hirsch is the author of seven previous collections of poetry and four prose books. He has received numerous awards for his poetry, including a MacArthur fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and publishes regularly in a wide variety of magazines and journals. He serves as the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

For the Sleepwalkers

Tonight I want to say something wonderful for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men who know it is morning by feeling shadows.

And always they wake up as themselves again.
That’s why I want to say something astonishing like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs flying through the trees at night, soaking up the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind- torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleepwalkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

The Poet At Seven

He could be any seven- year-old on the lawn,
holding a baseball in his hand, ready to throw.
He has the middle- class innocence of an American,

except for his blunt features and dark skin that mark him as a Palestinian or a Jew,
his forehead furrowed like a question,

his concentration camp eyes, nervous, grim,
and too intense. He has the typical blood of the exile, the refugee, the victim.

Look at him looking at the catcher for a sign—
so violent and competitive, so unexceptional,
except for an ancestral lamentation,

a shadowy, grief- stricken need for freedom laboring to express itself through him.

M i l k

My mother wouldn’t be cowed into nursing and decided that formula was healthier than the liquid from her breasts.

And so I never sucked a single drop from the source, a river dried up.
It was always bottled for me.

But one night in my mid- thirties in a mirrored room off Highway 59
a woman who had a baby daughter

turned to me with an enigmatic smile and cupped my face in her chapped hands and tipped her nipple into my mouth.

This happened a long time ago in another city and it is wrong to tell about it.
It was infantile to bring it up in therapy.

And yet it is one of those moments—
misplaced, involuntary—that swim up out of the past without a conscience:

She lifts my face and I taste it—
the sudden spurting nectar,
the incurable sweetness that is life.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

“The everyday and the otherworldly temper each other in these excellent poems, and American poetry gains new strength as a result.” —The New York Times Book Review

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