Ten Windows (Hardcover)
How Great Poems Transform the World
Knopf, 9780385351058, 320pp.
Publication Date: March 17, 2015
A dazzling collection of essays on how the best poems work, from the master poet and essayist
“Poetry,” Jane Hirshfield has said, “is language that foments revolutions of being.” In ten eloquent and highly original explorations, she unfolds and explores some of the ways this is done—by the inclusion of hiddenness, paradox, and surprise; by a perennial awareness of the place of uncertainty in our lives; by language’s own acts of discovery; by the powers of image, statement, music, and feeling to enlarge in every direction. The lucid understandings presented here are gripping and transformative in themselves. Investigating the power of poetry to move and change us becomes in these pages an equal investigation into the inhabitance and navigation of our human lives.
Closely reading poems by Dickinson, Bashō, Szymborska, Cavafy, Heaney, Bishop, and Komunyakaa, among many others, Hirshfield reveals how poetry’s world-making takes place: word by charged word. By expanding what is imaginable and sayable, Hirshfield proposes, poems expand what is possible. Ten Windows restores us at every turn to a more precise, sensuous, and deepened experience of our shared humanity and of the seemingly limitless means by which that knowledge is both summoned and forged.
About the Author
JANE HIRSHFIELD is the author of eight books of poetry, including The Beauty; Come, Thief; After; and Given Sugar, Given Salt. She has edited and cotranslated four books presenting the work of poets from the past and is the author of two major collections of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World. Her books have been finalists for the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize; they have been named best books of the year by The Washington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, Amazon, and Financial Times; and they have won the California Book Award, the Poetry Center Book Award, and the Donald Hall–Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Hirshfield has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets. Her poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, Poetry, The New Republic, and eight editions of The Best American Poetry. A resident of Northern California since 1974, she is a current chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.
Praise For Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World…
“One of our finest poets [and] best essayists on the act of writing and the art of poetry…She speaks to the largest audience of poetry lovers...Windows are thrown open to a vision of poetry from the inside looking out.” —New York Journal of Books
“In 20 or 30 years, this book may be remembered as one of the great common-readers on the pleasures of poetry . . . . [Hirshfield’s] approach to poetry is exhilarating. Reading her is reminiscent of the joy found among the insights and illuminations of Hugh Kenner’s best work . . . . This thrilling work of immense value is truly an important book on one of the most important subjects: poetry. However, like a strong drink (or a great poem) it probably isn’t to be taken in a single gulp. It may even seem a little intoxicating, but drink.”—Library Journal, starred review
"With precision and passion, Hirshfield elucidates poetry’s “musical shapeliness,” “creative intention,” embrace of uncertainty, and how poetry engenders a profound “unlatching.” She draws stirring examples from Shakespeare, Hopkins, Whitman, Auden, Bishop, Milosz, Brooks, and Komunyakaa and illuminates the power of haiku in her affecting in-depth profile of the Japanese poet Bash. Hirshfield writes brilliantly of paradox in poetry, of what poets and stand-up comics have in common, and how poetry “counters isolation and meaninglessness.” The profound pleasure Hirshfield takes in delineating poetry’s efficacy makes for a beautifully enlightening volume. —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)