Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Moment with Jane Hirshfield

Originality can be hunted. Concentration's deep attentiveness; permeability to accident; persistence; curiosity; a wide vocabulary of outer and inner worlds––these are just a few of the ways. Playfulness and rebelliousness help. Intelligence and seriousness help. Passion. The courage of independence. A knowledge of tradition, perversely, helps.


Originality lies at the crossroads, at the point where world and self open to each other in transparence in the night rain. There, plenitude of being comes and goes. Originality summons originality: a work of art that contains the mind of freedom will call forth freedom in others. But originality also asks presence––the willingness to inhabit ourselves amid the uncertain transports and sufferings that are our fate. To feel, and to question feeling; to know, and to agree to wander utterly lost in the dark, where every journey of the soul starts over.

-from Jane Hirshfield, "The Question of Originality," Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (Harper Collins, 1997), pp. 50-51


Blogger Pioneering Over Four Epochs said...


The first time I came across the American poet Jane Hirshfield(b. 1953- ) was in 2002, three years after I retired from full-time work and just after going on a disability pension. I was 58. By 2002 I had begun to slowly drop the casual and volunteer work that had replaced my full-time employment in 1999, that had allowed me to slowly make an exit from the world of external and community commitments and that had come to prevent me from devoting the kind of attention and time I wanted to writing and study.

I had already begun to study poetry more seriously in 1989 when teaching matric English Literature and by 2002 I had notes on several dozen poets. My book on the poetry of Roger White had been approved in 2002 and was soon to go online at the Juxta Publications website. In 2002 I read an interview with Hirschfield and had made a page of notes on her thoughts about and her approach to poetry. Then, this week, five years later, as I was reading these notes and organizing my interviews with poets file I was struck by some of her comments. So I photocopied several pieces from the internet about her: two interviews, two reviews of her work, a journal article, a page of her prose, several of her poems and a bio-data sheet.-Ron Price, Pioneering Over Four Epochs, 24 October 2007.

You said so many things, Jane,
which made such perfect sense
even though you came to them
by such a different road than I.

Not knowing where a poem is
going and moving into mystery
as one takes one’s life in hand,
puts it all into the poem making
life anew, from self to world,
reexperiencing, magnifying,
clarifying, savoring the journey,
its irresistible seduction, weaving
a world by language, seriousness,
silence, attention and a curious
knowing-inhabiting-staying with
what comes up from inside being.

After a lifetime, more than 60 years
of immersion in the life of the world,
I finally immerse myself in a deep
and profound silence filled with new and wonderful configurations that have been cast in every epoch on the mirror of creation, embellished with a fresh grace, an ever-varying splendour deriving from thought.

Ron Price 24 October 2007

9:34 PM  

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