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After Paperback – 10 Nov 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Bloodaxe Books Ltd (10 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185224741X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852247416
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 0.7 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 748,879 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Hirshfield's most recent books are THE BEAUTY (Bloodaxe, 2015 UK/Knopf, 2015 US) and TEN WINDOWS: HOW GREAT POEMS TRANSFORM THE WORLD (Knopf, 2015). Previous books include COME, THIEF (Bloodaxe, 2012/Knopf 2011) and AFTER (Bloodaxe, 2006/HarperCollins, 2006), a Poetry Book Society Choice Selection and finalist for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize, named a best book of 2006 by the Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Financial Times. In 2005, Bloodaxe published EACH HAPPINESS RINGED BY LIONS: Selected Poems, which includes work from Hirshfield's first five U.S. poetry collections. She is also the author of HIDDENNESS, UNCERTAINTY, SURPRISE: THREE GENERATIVE ENERGIES IN POETRY, in the Bloodaxe Lecture Series (Bloodaxe/Newcastle University, 2007), and in the US a now-classic earlier collection of essays, NINE GATES: ENTERING THE MIND OF POETRY (HarperCollins, 1997). In 2011 she published an Amazon Kindle Single, THE HEART OF HAIKU, a concise introduction to the 17th-century Japanese poet Basho and the 17-syllable poetic form he singlehandedly transformed into a brief word-vessel able to hold immense, varied, and subtle meanings; this was named an Amazon Best Book of 2011.

Considered one of the foremost U.S. poets of her generation, Jane Hirshfield grew up in New York City and was part of the first class of women to graduate from Princeton University in 1973. She did a year of farm labor, then spent 8 years in the full time study of Zen Buddhism, including three years of monastic practice. Her poems began appearing regularly in magazines in the early 1980s, and have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic Monthly, Harper's, The New Republic, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and eight editions of The Best American Poems; in the UK, her poems have appeared in The Times Literary Supplement (TLS), The Poetry Review, The Guardian, Poetry London, The Glasgow Herald, and elsewhere.

Hirshfield has taught at U.C. Berkeley, the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars, and elsewhere, but is not a full time academic. She lives in a small white cottage on the hem of Mount Tamalpais in the San Francisco Bay Area and appears frequently in literary festivals and writers conferences both in the U.S. and abroad, including in the UK Poetry International, Aldeburgh, StAnza, and Ledbury. She served as the first International Poet in Residence for the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. She is a current Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and the 2016 Mohr Visiting Poet at Stanford University.

Product Description


'Jane Hirshfield is a poet very close to my heart' - wislawa szymborska 'A profound empathy for the suffering of all living beings... It is precisely this that I praise in the poetry of Jane Hirshfield...In its highly sensuous detail, her poetry illuminates the Buddhist virtue of mindfulness' - czeslaw milosz, Prze Kroj (Poland) 'Her poetry is a rich and assured extraordinary intertwining of cherished detail and passionate abstraction...The poems' realised ambition is wisdom' - alison brackenbury, Agenda 'Poems of quiet wisdom, steeped in a profound understanding of what it it to be human' - The Scotsman

About the Author

Jane Hirshfield was born in 1953 in New York and lives in northern California. Her first book of poetry published in the UK was Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2004), which draws on her collections Alaya (1982), Of Gravity & Angels (1988), The October Palace (1994), The Lives of the Heart (1997) and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001). She edited the bestselling anthology Women in Praise of the Sacred (1994), and co-translated The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu (1988) - another bestseller in the States - and, with Robert Bly, Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems (2004). Her own poetry was translated into Polish by Czeslaw Milosz, who also wrote the introduction to her Polish Selected Poems. She has won numerous literary awards.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By T. Taylor on 14 Jun. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is one of the best poetry books I have read fro a while. Her poems are enigmatic, moving and intelligent. First time I have come across assay poems and I really enjoyed them.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The Awakening of Words 22 Mar. 2007
By Jennifer Haynes - Published on
Format: Paperback
In Jane Hirshfield's sixth book of poetry entitled, "After," she is interested or invested in the use of words and their function in life and what they have to teach. The theme of this contemporary woman poet seems to dwell in her poem called "To Speech," "What lives in words is what words were needed to learn." After the poet has mastered the use of language, only then can it be manipulated into the truth. She is conscious of words associated with self awareness, namely: judgment, grief, theology, hope, articulation, possibility, speech, and she even grasps the concept of some of the most insignificant and magnificent words such as `to', `and', or `of.' It is important to mention the white space in between the words; Many of her words are short, concise, delicious, and function to be uttered and reclaimed. Among them include Hirshfield's first poem in her book, "After Long Silence" which seems to be a declaration of the very thing which she feels most important to convey to the reader of her poems: "The untranslatable thought must be the most precise/ Yet words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins."

Hirshfield's poetry is like a walk through the awakening of ignorance, you are not sure what to expect, but once you have completed your journey you are never the same. Along the way Hirshfield uses sounds, symbols, elegies, personifiers, metaphors, and assays to convey her thoughts. Maya Angelou, a great poet in her own right once said, "I've gone from being ignorant of being ignorant to being aware of being aware." Angelou and Hirshfield both require that the importance of being aware of words is one's own responsibility. Within the second to the last poem titled, "Letter to C," Hirshfield reminds the reader where the journey has taken them within her book of poems. In this poem there are references to the many symbols, sounds, and constructions uttered by the poet in her other poems; for example: Orpheus a tragic character which appears in her poem called "Flowering Vetch," the use of dogs which is a natural occurrence in more than half of her poems, Vilnius which is the title and subject of her poem "Vilnius," and Krakow which appears in her poem "Not Only Parallel Lines Extend to the Infinite." The poem "Letter to C," then functions to bring the reader from the beginning to the end of her book of poems.

Through Hirshfield's careful metaphor, the self "...carries grief as a pack mule carries the side bags, being careful between the trees to leave extra room." Hirshfield's title, "After," becomes for the reader a kind of afterthought. After Hirshfield takes the reader through the many isolated incidences of which live is based one thing remains, "Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad, you slept, you awakened." I would take her utterance a step further and say that "you awakened," to find yourself. Anyone who has the chance to read her poetry should not fail at the opportunity. Hirshfield style of writing poetry is accessible to anyone who wants to enter her world and unpack her words.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Words on Words. 29 May 2007
By Una - Published on
Format: Paperback
These poems are astounding. Jane Hirshfield is succinct, I could hear the words slicing off her pen and onto the paper. She doesn't waste breath. If her poetry were to be labelled in Taoist terms it would be the Philosophical School of Tao, using her energy in the most efficient ways she can think or dream up. I read these with my head tilted and my mouth agape, she dissects language so thoroughly and with such compassion that the words and letters practically take on human qualities. I didn't put this book down until I was finished. You won't either.
18 of 23 people found the following review helpful
Where the poem ends ... 13 Mar. 2006
By M. Bashista - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I have anticipated the release of Jane's latest work as she had read some of the poems at her workshops at the Tassajara Zen Center. I am not disappointed.

The last line in the opening poem summarizes and also hints at the poetry to follow. "Yet words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins."

And Jane, in a recent reading, admitted that these poems do leave lines unended, thoughts unfinished.

And for this reader, that is a good reason to return to certain poems; to begin again, to see anew.


Santa Cruz, CA
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Great stuff. 13 Feb. 2010
By G. D. Geiss - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In truth, it is difficult for the amateur (and sometimes it seems even for the professional) reviewer to say much else about a collection of poems but, "I loved them" or "I hated them". Poetry that produces neither love nor hate is probably poetry you should not attempt to review...luke warm soup? No thanks!

Anyway, I loved these poems. I used soup above advisedly. You will find more than a couple references in these poems to soup, and, it seems to me, that when a poet repeats images/objects you might want to be alert that, for instance here, soup may be somewhat more than veggies and broth. Along similar lines, Ms Hirshfield will introduce you here to a variety of dogs: real, imagined, past, present, dream, rose-quartz colored, and at least once (in a title) metaphoric. Ms. Hirshfield has written lovingly in "Nine Gates" (her marvelous set of poetic essays on poetry) about James Wright's "messenger angels". It seems, perhaps, that her dogs are sometimes cast in this role in this collection. You might watch/listen for them.

More than one observer has noted the sheen of sadness that overlays much of "After". I think sometimes that the "zen-ness" of these poems leans them in that direction. I'll leave it to more qualified/knowledgeable reviewers to deal properly with that, but it does seem that zen can tend toward the somber. Then, too, it could just be that Ms. Hirshfield is particularly attuned to the bitter-sweetness that life doles out whether we want it or not. Her (along with Mariko Aratani) surpassingly, inexhaustibly wonderful translations of the tanka of the Heian era poets Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu ("The Ink Dark Moon") are full to overflowing with the ineffable transcience of love and life. No doubt that is present throughout the originals, but the deftness of the translations could not have originated in a non-kindred soul.

Still there is, if not great joy, great beauty in these poems. "Beneath the Snow, the Badger's Steady Breathing" ends with "- Sharp starlight coming all the way down to the snow." In her "Assay" on "Translucence" she's following that rose-quartz colored dream dog thusly: "A shadow opened then folded behind her./ I followed as if past a gate latch/ sliding closed of its own silent weight." The already noted "blue green shoulder of the vase" and, possibly the most beautiful image in the collection in "To Judgment: An Assay" in a line eschewing the very judgment of beautiful: a "dawn the color of winter butter -".

There is here, too, the quietly enigmatic. Try the opening poem "After Long Silence". Read closely and ask what "thought" is untranslatable and where, if thoughts start with words, do they go after? Is silence itself an answer to both questions and if so is "after" "post" or "pursuit"? Also, as already noted, "Red Scarf" which notes it's "for L.B. (1950-2004)". Whose scarf is it? Ms Hirshfield's or L.B.'s? Doesn't the "inconceivable before" (with before in italics) change considerably depending? All that's sure is the loss, the grief, the missing.

Two more thoughts and I'll let this go. I used the term quietly above and that's a characteristic of the entire collection. One of the quietest and one of my favorite poems (not likely to be everyone's) is "Sheep's Cheese" which I'd like to quote most of

In the cellar, sheep's milk cheeses

Once a week, a man comes to turn them.
Sixty pounds lifted like child after child,
lain back re-wrapped

The wheels are only sheep's milk, not ripening souls.
He sings no lullabye to them. But his arms know the weight.

I find this poem full of gentleness, quietness, tenderness; of ritual, of steadfastness; of the love found in certain labors; of the uncommon cosmic found in the most common of objects. And it's probably full of quite a bit more than that. Surely, though, it and the rest of these poems are Ms Hirshfield's wheels and, while they, too, are mere objects - her arms also know the weight.

And finally, the last three lines of the last poem are a kind of zen conclusion to the story of life played out within them. While the lines are addressed specifically, I think they can be read more generally: "Your story was this: you were happy, then you were sad,/ you slept, you awakened./ Sometimes you ate roasted chestnuts, sometimes persimmons." Others have noted these lines, but sometimes stopped before that last line with its heat prepared roasted chestnuts and its cold ripened persimmons, one sweet, the other tart - or slightly bitter, if you will.

Much poetry is written about itself, about art. This poetry is written about life and reading it will enrich your own in quiet but generous ways. If its vision is slightly canted toward the dark, yet it is, as Ms. Hirshfield herself describes in "Pyracantha and Plum": "a self portrait both clearer and darker,/ as if while I slept some Rembrandt or Brueghel/ had walked through the garden, looking hard."

Great stuff.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Hirshfield does it again. 8 Feb. 2009
By Robert Beveridge - Published on
Format: Paperback
Jane Hirshfield, After (Harper Collins, 2006)

Jane Hirshfield's Given Sugar, Given Salt, which I read in January, is on my list of the best books I read in 2008. While After didn't have quite the effect on me her previous book did, this one is still capable of packing the wallop that makes Jane Hirshfield's poems so well worth your time;

"As Issa changed, writing after the death of his daughter,

This world of dew
is a world of dew.
And yet.

How much of you
was left uninvited into those lines.
That silence your shadow, bringing his grieving to me."
("To Speech")

There's a reason Issa resonates with Hirshfield, and this poem does a lot to illustrate what it is about Hirshfield's writing that makes it so intriguing and so powerful at the same time (it's that negative capability thing Keats went on about, it is). The language is plain, but there is a great deal running beneath it; much of the best poetry is thus, and Hirshfield does it with flair. Very good stuff, this. ****
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