How Poetry Can Transform Our Lives with Jane Hirshfield

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Jane Hirshfield believes that poetry can play a transformative role in our lives. “What poems are doing is counterbalancing the mainstream tenor of our culture, which is to do, to be active, to be energetic and to prove one’s self… and one of the messages underlying all poems that move us is that we have nothing at all to prove.” She offers her perspective on beauty and how it cannot exist alone. She takes us behind the scenes into the mind of the poet, and treats us to some of her own poems and her thinking behind them. She also reminds us that a reader can benefit from a poem without knowing what the poet is thinking, but by thinking for him- or herself. Poetry encourages us to ask questions, open up to the unknown, and see our vulnerabilities. Her own process includes the constant practice of questioning, searching, and listening. Poems can present life to us through a different lens, she says. “One of the things that poetry helps us with is to remain open to what is not sure, what is not guaranteed, what makes us feel vulnerable.” (hosted by Roger Housden)


Jane Hirshfield is the author of nine books of poetry and two collections of essays. She has edited and co-translated four books presenting the work of world poets from the past. Her books have received the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and the Donald Hal-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Her poems appear in a wide range of prestigious outlets. A resident of Northern California, she is a chancellor emerita of the Academy of American Poets. She presents her work at literary and interdisciplinary events worldwide.

Her poetry books include:

To learn more about the work of Jane Hirshfield go to

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • How can poetry transform our lives
  • What is beauty
  • What leads to and accompanies beauty
  • Why is uncertainty important
  • What drives poets and the creative process
  • What states of mind are most helpful for creativity
  • What is amplitude
  • How does perspective effect poetry

Host: Roger Housden   Interview Date: 5/9/2015   Program Number: 3548

Music Playlist

From Album: Intervention
Artist: Helen Jane Long
2012 BLIE Music Records #9790900213570

Opening Essay: Track 06 Fountain
Music Break 1: Track 02 Free
Music Break 2: Track 06 Fountain (reprise)
Music Break 3: Track 03 Willow

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