Friday, March 4, 2011

Jane Hirshfield in Montreal

One of the most influential poets writing today, Jane Hirshfield`s work continues to inspire me. I like the seeming simplicity of her work, how compact her poems are but how they all stand up to multiple readings.

Her poems almost always start with a very tangible object:

Green-Sriped Melons

They lie
under stars in a field.
They lie under rain in a field.
Under sun.

Some people
are like this as well -
like a painting
hidden beneath another painting.

An unexpected weight
the sign of their ripeness.

What interests me about a poem like this is how straightforward it is on the surface (what could be simpler about melons in a field) but how she actually captures a rather complex series of ideas: that people are both as simple and natural and straightforward as melons growing under the sun, but also as hard to get at as a painting hidden under another painting.

In this way, the poem itself is a metaphor for humanity, it`s simple and hard to work out at the same time.

Her work almost always starts with an object: a window, a bowl of soup, a woodpecker on a ledge, but then she moves through this object, expands it, looks at it as both a rhetorical door and a symbol for what is good and bad about all of us. But though these ideas are all captured in her poems, her work is never pretentious or pedantic.

Also a translator and essayist (her 1998 book, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry contains some excellent essays about why poetry still matters), Jane Hirshfield will be at the Montreal Zen Poetry Festival next week.

No comments:

Post a Comment