Poetry: The Unfolding Of What Is Hidden with Jane Hirshfield

Hirshfield points out that many people turn to poetry at great life transitions. She says, “You know when people fall in love, or when they lose love, or lose someone they loved, that is when they want a poem. When they get married they want a poem. These great transitions are larger than the normal, ordinary consciousness. And what poems do is give us a vocabulary for understanding things, which aren’t available through any other use of language.” Her poetry alludes to far ranging subjects such as time, nature, and even science. Here she reads some of her poetry, and talks of the inspiration from which they come, and why they speak to us and move us beyond our rational minds and our busy intellect through their metaphors and images. She shares with us why poetry, and other art forms like music, speak so deeply to the heart and soul. (Hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven collections of poetry, a book of essays, and three books collecting the women poets from the past. Her awards include three Pushcart Prizes, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Her collection Given Sugar, Given Salt was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hirshfield draws inspiration for her poetry from both Eastern and Western poetry and her practice of Zen Buddhism. Her poetry books include:

To find our more about Jane Hirshfield’s work go to www.facebook.com/janehirshfield.

Topics Explored in this Dialogue:

  • What is the history of the word observation
  • Why do many people turn to poetry, when great transitions occur in their lives
  • How poems help us to fully inhabit what is incomprehensible by logic
  • How writing poetry should be an act of discovery, rather than transcribing what we already know
  • How does poetry stop time
  • How lichen is integral to the health of old growth redwood forests
  • How can we cultivate the attention of a writer
  • What is the seven word description of Buddhism

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Host: Justine Willis Toms      Interview Date: 9/7/2011     Program Number: 3410