Jane Hirshfield Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Besides her work as a poet, Jane Hirshfield has written a major work on the craft and philosophy of poetry: Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (1997). Nine Gates treats the gates through which readers and writers pass as they learn what poetry brings to life and how it works. Patricia Kirkpatrick considers this volume of essays as addressing “not only ways to read and write, but a way to live.” The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan (1988, expanded 1990) is a series of translations from the Japanese with cotranslator Mariko Aratani, and Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women(1994) is ananthology of inspirational poetry by women from 2300 b.c.e. to the twentieth century. Both of these collections attempt to make more widely known the works of historical women poets whose work has often been neglected and marginalized. They are attempts to contradict the lingering myth that women throughout history have not written significant poetry.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Jane Hirshfield’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, Columbia University’s Translation Center Award, two Silver Medals from the Commonwealth Club of California (1988, 1994), the San Francisco State University Poetry Center Book Award (1994), and two Northern California Book Awards in poetry (1994, 2001). She won Pushcart Prizes for Of Gravity and Angels and Given Sugar, Given Salt. For the latter volume, she was also a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2001. The Academy of American Poets gave her an academy fellowship for distinguished achievement in poetry in 2004. After was named a best book of 2006 by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Financial Times.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Eaton, Mark A. “Jane Hirshfield.” In Twentieth-Century American Nature Poets, edited by J. Scott Bryson and Roger Thompson. Vol. 342 in Dictionary of Literary Biography. Detroit: Gale, 2008. Examines Hirshfield’s career-long involvement with the natural world and includes discussions of poems from each volume of her work.

Elkins, Andrew. “California as the World in the Poetry of Jane Hirshfield.” In Another Place: An Ecocritical Study of Selected Western American Poets. Forth Worth: Texas Christian University Press, 2002. This work on place in literature examines how Hirshfield treats her adopted state in her poetry.

Galens, David M., ed. Poetry for Students. Vol. 16. Detroit: Gale, 2002. This volume includes three essays offering close readings of Hirshfield’s “Three Times My Life Has Opened.”

Harris, Peter. “About Jane Hirshfield: A Profile.” Ploughshares 24, no. 1 (Spring, 1998): 199-205. Particularly valuable is Harris’s study of the Zen influence in Hirshfield’s work.

Hirschfield, Jane. “A Conversation with Jane Hirschfield.” In Rattle Conversations, edited by Alan Fox. Los Angeles: Red Hen Press, 2008. In an interview first published in Rattle magazine in 2005. Hirshfield discusses why she writes and how she does it.

Hirschfield, Jane, and Meredith Monk. “Buddhism and Creativity:” A Conversation with Jane Hirschfield and Meredith Monk.” Interview by Pat Enky O’Hara. In Women Practicing Buddhism: American Experiences, edited by Peter N. Gregory and Susanne Mrozik. Boston: Wisdom, 2008. Hirshfield and Meredith Monk discuss creativity and Buddhism. Hirshfield states that she feels art arises out of a question.

Hoey, Allen. Contemporary Women Poets. Detroit: St. James Press, 1997. Hoey considers Hirshfield’s career from a variety of perspectives. Perhaps most valuable is his examination of the influence of the poet James Wright on Hirshfield’s poetry.

Ratiner, Steven. “Transcendence: Verse That Conveys the Humble Profundity of Buddhism.” Review of After. The Washington Post, August 6, 2006, p. T12. The reviewer praises Hirshfield’s work, which he says reflects a modern trend toward simpler poems. Notes that “After Long Silence” exhibits “precise vision and rigorous thought.”