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Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems [Paperback]

Jane Hirshfield
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

1 Mar 2005
Jane Hirshfield is a visionary American writer whose poems ask nothing less than what it is to be human. Both sensual meditations and passionate investigations, they reveal complex truths in language luminous and precise. Rooted in the living world, her poems celebrate and elucidate a hard-won affirmation of our human fate. Born of a rigorous questioning of heart, spirit and mind, they have become indispensible to many American readers in navigating their own lives. Hers is a poetry of clarity and hybrid vigour, drawing deeply on English and American traditions but also those of world poetry. The poetries of modern and classical Greece, of Horace and Catullus, of classical China and Japan and Eastern Europe all resonate in Jane Hirshfield's structures of thought and in her sensibilities. Indelibly of our time yet seated in the lineage of poetic discovery, these poems are meant to endure.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Bloodaxe Books Ltd; First Thus edition (1 Mar 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1852246936
  • ISBN-13: 978-1852246938
  • Product Dimensions: 13.9 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 707,406 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jane Hirshfield's most recent book is COME, THIEF (Bloodaxe, 2012/Knopf 2011). Her previous book, AFTER (Bloodaxe, 2006/HarperCollins, 2006), was a Poetry Book Society Choice Selection and finalist for the T.S. Eliot Poetry Prize. It was 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, introducing 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.

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, The New Republic, Poetry, The American Poetry Review, and seven 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, Ledbury, and serving as the first International Poet in Residence for the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere. She is a current Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Product Description


Hirshfield writes about profound feelings without ever being sentimental. - Susan Mansfield -- Scotsman, March 21, 2005

About the Author

jane hirshfield was born in 1953 in New York and lives in northern California. This selection draws her five 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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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Lions's Voice 14 Sep 2012
By Graham Mummery TOP 1000 REVIEWER
As the rating shows, I profoundly disagree with the two reviewers so far of this book.

As to whether Jane Hirshfield prefers "The Waste Land" or "The Four Quartets," I've no idea. Personally, I don't have a preference. Both are great poems that convey different experiences. Both are ones I turn to at different times. One thing I have found is that many prefer "The Four Quartets" because it moves them more, and reflects a particular kind of hard won ability to overcome suffering. Hirshfield's poems do this in a very different way.

A reading of Hirshfield's critical work Nine Gates shows that she is well aware of both kinds of poetry and more in various cannons with references to the likes of Catullus, Zbigniew Herbert as well as poetry by Zen Buddhist poets. Her own poetry perhaps does reflect Zen poetry more. She is not a street wise city dweller like, say, Kleinzahler or Ashbury, but more like Gary Snyder, she dwells in the moment.

Being in the moment is itself very much a Zen Buddhist concept. How a poem may focus on the moment is something she has written an essay on. Perhaps this is why her poems are more often in free verse. They are tightly focused, stating sometimes painful truths with great economy of word.

A kindred spirit to Hirshfield's work might be Mary Oliver who also writes visionary poems. Oliver sometimes is a little mawkish for my taste, but she too has written some fine poems. Hirshfield is not always so reassuring, even if she remains positive, affirming beauty in the world even when this is difficult. She writes:

"The world asks of us
only the strength we have and we give it.
Then it asks more, and we give it.
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0 of 9 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Verbal yoga 1 April 2011
Like the deplorable Anne Michaels (though less so) this is the kind of thing that gives women's writing a bad name. Maybe it reads better in Polish, however, as the great Szymborska is an admirer; surely SHE doesn't prefer Four Quartets to The Waste Land, as I surmise Hirshfield does? But no doubt late Eliot reads better in Polish too.

PS I'm sorry to single poor Jane out like this - there are lots like her! Fortunately there are also plenty of marvellous women poets out there, from Anne Finch (or Christine de Pizan, though her poetry still awaits its (female?) translator) via the sainted Stevie Smith to today's astonishing outcrop, some of whom I review here or on amazon.com
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Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Vine-Ripened Poetry 1 Jan 2014
By Peter Harris - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jane Hirshfield writes deeply considered verse, increasingly brief and essential. The sentences unfold as wise sayings, the fruit of long meditation. Desire, the physical world, the mystery of the current moment, and evanescence preoccupy her. She's influenced by long Zen practice. Nobody does "it" better. She's a voice one can trust. This is still the only "selected" available.

Peter Harris
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite poems 26 May 2013
By PCNiles - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I've been an avid reader of Jane Hirshfield's poetry for decades. Was happy to find this collection of poetry, all of which were originally published in previous volumes (her first five books). I own all but one of these other volumes. Her first book, Alaya, is out of print, with used copies impossible to find, and that is the reason I bought this volume of poetry, in order to read some of her earliest poems. This collection of poetry is Hirshfield's first UK publication. The poems included well represent her career as a poet.
0 of 33 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars California dreaming 1 April 2011
By Simon Barrett - Published on Amazon.com
Poetry by women seems to polarize me; this is the kind that brings me out in hives. Too late I see Hirshfield has edited an anthology of 43 centuries of spiritual verse. Forty. Three. Centuries. Very aging. I'm afraid 'spiritual' isn't in my lexicon, like God (I call it goddiness); even 'love' is problematic as a hold-all term ('need' would be more honest) - sometimes it's just another form of self-regard (parents who 'love' their children can murder them to prevent them being taken away). I'll try and get a handle on my specific literary gripe later if I can bear to (if Szymborska gets her, what's MY problem?); for now let's say too, um, feminine? In the way that macho male swagger or portentousness (later Eliot?) can also repel..

In evidence I cite p116 (describing 'ALL our anxieties and terrors...as they TRULY are')
'Stumbling, delirious bees in the tea-scent of jasmine'
So that's all right then

Later. OK, the problem is that Hirshfield is of that generation who found form vieux jeu. If you reject it on principle (or aren't interested enough to try it) it's easy to slip into vapidity and grandiloquence - form keeps you grounded; and of course it connects you with your forebears, unlike the tribe of 'free expression' amateurs, who put me in mind of kids let loose with a paintbox when they could be doing creative READING! Of course, what counts as 'form' these days is less clearcut than of yore - I would definitely call Ashbery a formal poet, for instance, and the beats adopted no-form AS form - and I suppose it is debatable how far Hirshfield and her ilk retain a sense of craft (obviously a poem has to retain a 'form' of SOME kind!!) - but those wars are thankfully now over; today American poets are comfortable in any guise (while recognising that it IS a choice) and all the better for it. Vive la diversité!
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