Poetry: The Unfolding Of What Is Hidden with Jane Hirshfield

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Jane Hirshfield points out that many people turn to poetry in times of great life transitions. She says, “You know when people fall in love, or when they lose love, or lose someone they loved, that is when they want a poem. When they get married, they want a poem. These great transitions are larger than the normal, ordinary consciousness. And what poems do is give us a vocabulary for understanding things, which isn’t available through any other use of language.” Her poetry alludes to far ranging subjects such as time, nature, and even science. Here she reads some of her poems and talks of the inspiration from which they come and why they speak to us and move us beyond our rational minds and our busy intellect through metaphors and images. She shares with us why poetry, and other art forms like music, speak so deeply to the heart and soul. (hosted by Justine Willis Toms)


Jane Hirshfield is a poet, translator, and essayist and is the author of many collections of poetry and other books, including three collections of women poets from the past. Her awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts, three Pushcart Prizes, the California Book Award, The Poetry Center Book Award, and other honors. Her poems appear regularly in magazines such as The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Poetry and have been included in six editions of The Best American Poetry.

Her poetry books include:

To learn more about the work of Jane Hirshfield go to www.facebook.com/janehirshfield.

Topics Explored in This Dialogue

  • What is the history of the word observation
  • Why do many people turn to poetry when great transitions occur in their lives
  • How poems help us to fully inhabit what is incomprehensible through logic
  • How writing poetry should be an act of discovery, rather than a transcription of what we already know
  • How does poetry stop time
  • How lichen is integral to the health of old growth redwood forests
  • How can we cultivate the attention of a writer
  • What is the seven word description of Buddhism

Host: Justine Willis Toms     Interview Date: 9/7/2011    Program Number: 3410

Music Playlist

From Album: Hidden Sky
Artist: Jami Sieber
2004 Out Front Music #OFM-1-1

Opening Essay: Track 01 Maenam
Music Break 1: Track 05 Red Moon
Music Break 2: Track 09 Hidden Sky
Music Break 3: Track 11 Arms of the Mother