The titles of her previous books and the poems in this newest collection are evidence enough to know you are hands of an artist when you give yourself over to the poetry of Jane Hirshfield.  From the poet whose previous books include Given Sugar, Given Salt and Of Gravity and Angels we now have poems entitled:  The Tongue Says Loneliness, Heat and Desperation, Washing Doorknobs and If Truth Is the Lure, Humans Are Fishes.

To speak of Hirshfield epigrammatically is, of course, travesty.  Hers is the landscape of where the footprints of ants become the punctuation of psalms.  Hers is a world where there are no boundaries.  The body is atomized and passes through the supposed barrier between mortals and animals.  Light penetrates skin.  An ear losing the ability to hear, is “packing its suitcase/early.  It is packing rain.  It is taking some leaves.”

When you enter Jane Hirshfield’s world, you are given extrasensory vision and, as she says in Stone and Knife, “One angle blunts, another sharpens.” as you adjust your eyes to this new way of seeing.  You see into the hearts of matters—the shape of a sweater when worn by one person or another as a metaphor for the stages of a lifetime;  the way the present time can take away the ability to give a gift which is, of course another form of present; the moonlight building “its cold chapel/again out of piecemeal darkness.  These are the images that can only be painted with words and these are the words that deconstruct language into another way of meaning another mysterious pathway into what we know but cannot say.  Cannot say unless, that is, we are Jane Hirshfield.

Come, Thief is a book to own, a book to give and above all a book of poems to be read.  To yourself on a rainy evening when you are alone.  Aloud on a morning when you need extra courage before leaving the house.  To a loved one whom you want to treasure by giving a treasury.

We wouldn’t dare speak of gift giving holidays before Thanksgiving has come and gone, but perhaps you want to write the title “Come, Thief” and the name Jane Hirshfield on any lists you might be making in advance of that season that is sure to arrive.

We leave you with this thought from her poems organized under the heading Fifteen Pebbles.

Like moonlight seen in a well./The one who sees it/blocks it.

Knowing that is enough to remind us of our power—to see and to obsure—and our good fortune to have this poet at hand to shed light in all new ways.

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  • Barbara Miller November 7, 2011 at 7:06 pm

    That is a really wonderful review of what I agree is a book worth reading and giving to others.