News / USA

    Poet Embraces Late-in-Life Love, Tender Sorrows

    Jane Hirshfield's 'Come, Thief' is about life's landmarks

    In "Come, Thief," Jane Hirshfield reflects on the landmarks of a life, including the fact that she found true love at age 49.
    In "Come, Thief," Jane Hirshfield reflects on the landmarks of a life, including the fact that she found true love at age 49.

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Award-winning American poet Jane Hirshfield has just published a new collection of poems. "Come, Thief" features themes of love, compassion, contemplation and the poignancy of a human life fully lived.

    Poems of Jane Hirshfield

    Come, Thief

    The mandarin silence of windows before their view,

    like guards who not to eery visitor,

    “Pass.”



    Come, thief.

    the path to the doorway agrees.

    A fire requires its own conflagration.

    As birth does. As love does.

    Saying to time to the end, “Dear one, enter.”



    Two Rains

    The dog came in

    and shook off

    water in every direction.



    A chaotic rainstorm,

    walking on four paws.



    The outside rain

    fell straight,

    in parallel lines”

    from child’s drawing.



    Windless, blunt and cold,

    that orderly rain,

    like a fate

    uninterrupted by late love.



    Copyright 2011. Reprinted by permission of Alfred. P. Knopf, Publisher

    Hirshfield sits in an anteroom at Poets House in New York about an hour before she appears before a large crowd to read from her seventh collection of poem.

    “The title is a signal of welcoming what is inevitable into our lives,” says Hirshfied, who adds that the  “‘thief” could have many meanings. “But what it primarily means in this book is time; time which brings us everything that we will ever experience and takes from us from us everything that we will ever experience, and one of the main threads of this book is simply saying ‘yes’ to that process. Yes to whatever comes, the difficult, the ecstatic, and yes to whatever goes – everything we will ever love and finally ourselves.”

    The line, “Come, thief, the path to the doorway agrees,” appears in the title poem. Hirshfield explains its meaning.

    “All paths welcome whatever wants to walk on them. The person delivering the mail comes down the path, the thief comes down the path. Your beloved comes down the path. Your enemy comes down the path, and the path never chooses. The path says yes to it all.”  

    Hirshfield says that she would like heself to be such a path “that allows every human experience entrance and says ‘welcome.’”

    Hirshfield is nearing 60 and this poetry collection is largely about the landmarks of a life, including the fact that she found true love at age 49.

    In the poem, “Two Rains,” she contrasts the wild and chaotic rain in California, where she lives, with the dull, predictable kind alluded to in the line “Windless blunt and cold, that orderly rain, like a fate uninterrupted by late love."

    She explains her meaning. "We human beings. We’re very strange creatures. We think we want order. We think we want safety. We think we want security. But we really want – or what I really want - is to be absolutely overwhelmed, disordered, thrown into chaos and disarray by something absolutely fantastic which is larger than I am. And almost nothing rivals love for that."

    Jane Hirshfield's "Come, Thief," features themes of love, compassion, contemplation and the poignancy of a human life fully lived.
    Jane Hirshfield's "Come, Thief," features themes of love, compassion, contemplation and the poignancy of a human life fully lived.

    Even so, Hirshfield wants her poems to express all aspects of a life. "Because part of the work of poetry is to make you permeable to the experience not only inside your own skin but the experience all around you.”

    Hirshfield says universal human truths always play themselves out in the context of unique human lives. We are all in this together, but our stories belong to each of us alone.

    “Every perfume comes from individual flowers. It might be ten thousand roses in one little vial of oil of roses, but each one was individual, had its life, had its roots had its bee. And there is no escaping it. We don’t live in a general world. We live in particular one.”  

    This seems to be part of the message in this excerpt from Hirshfield’s poem “French Horn.”  

    For a few days only,  
    the plum tree outside the window
    shoulders perfection.
    No matter the plums will be small,
    eaten only by squirrels and jays.
    I feast on one thing, they on another,
    the shoaling bees on a third.
    What in this unpleated world isn’t someone’s seduction?


    For Hirshfield, life is not our ideas about life, or even our poems about it. Indeed, in her poem, “The Tongue Says Loneliness," she suggests  life is not a gate, but rather a horse plunging through it.

    All this can be found in “Come, Thief,” her seventh collection of poems, published by Knopf.

     

    Extended interview with Jane Hirshfield:

    Jane Hirshfield reads "Come, Thief"

    Jane Hirshfield reads "French Horn"

    You May Like

    Top US General: Turkish Media Report ‘Absurd'

    General Dunford rejects ‘irresponsible' claims of coup involvement by former four-star Army General Campbell, who led NATO forces in Afghanistan before retiring earlier this year

    Video Saving Ethiopian Children Thought to Be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at efforts of one African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children

    Protests Over Western Troops Threaten Libyan 'Unity' Government

    Fears mount that Islamist foes of ‘unity' government plan to declare a revolutionaries' council in Tripoli

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Processi
    X
    Katherine Gypson
    July 27, 2016 6:21 PM
    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video Immigrant Delegate Marvels at Democratic Process

    It’s been a bitter and divisive election season – but first time Indian-American delegate Dr. Shashi Gupta headed to the Democratic National Convention with a sense of hope. VOA’s Katherine Gypson followed this immigrant with the love of U.S. politics all the way to Philadelphia.
    Video

    Video A Life of Fighting Back: Hillary Clinton Shatters Glass Ceiling

    Hillary Clinton made history Thursday, overcoming personal and political setbacks to become the first woman to win the presidential nomination of a major U.S. political party. If she wins in November, she will go from “first lady” to U.S. Senator from New York, to Secretary of State, to “Madam President.” Polls show Clinton is both beloved and despised. White House Correspondent Cindy Saine takes a look at the life of the woman both supporters and detractors agree is a fighter for the ages.
    Video

    Video Dutch Entrepreneurs Turn Rainwater Into Beer

    June has been recorded as one of the wettest months in more than a century in many parts of Europe. To a group of entrepreneurs in Amsterdam the rain came as a blessing, as they used the extra water to brew beer. Serginho Roosblad has more to the story.
    Video

    Video First Time Delegate’s First Day Frustrations

    With thousands of people filling the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, VOA’s Kane Farabaugh narrowed in on one delegate as she made her first trip to a national party convention. It was a day that was anything but routine for this United States military veteran.
    Video

    Video Commerce Thrives on US-Mexico Border

    At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week, the party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, is expected to attack proposals made by her opponent, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. Last Friday, President Barack Obama hosted his Mexican counterpart, President Enrique Peña Nieto, to underscore the good relations between the two countries. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Tucson.
    Video

    Video Film Helps Save Ethiopian Children Thought to be Cursed

    'Omo Child' looks at effort of African man to stop killings of ‘mingi’ children
    Video

    Video London’s Financial Crown at Risk as Rivals Eye Brexit Opportunities

    By most measures, London rivals New York as the only true global financial center. But Britain’s vote to leave the European Union – so-called ‘Brexit’ – means the city could lose its right to sell services tariff-free across the bloc, risking its position as Europe’s financial headquarters. Already some banks have said they may shift operations to the mainland. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
    Video

    Video Recycling Lifeline for Lebanon’s Last Glassblowers

    In a small Lebanese coastal town, one family is preserving a craft that stretches back millennia. The art of glass blowing was developed by Phoenicians in the region, and the Khalifehs say they are the only ones keeping the skill alive in Lebanon. But despite teaming up with an eco-entrepreneur and receiving an unexpected boost from the country’s recent trash crisis the future remains uncertain. John Owens reports from Sarafand.
    Video

    Video Migrants Continue to Risk Lives Crossing US Border from Mexico

    In his speech Thursday before the Republican National Convention, the party’s presidential candidate, Donald Trump, reiterated his proposal to build a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border if elected. Polls show a large percentage of Americans support better control of the nation's southwestern border, but as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from the border town of Nogales in the Mexican state of Sonora, the situation faced by people trying to cross the border is already daunting.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Calm the Waters: US Doubles Down Diplomatic Efforts in ASEAN Meetings

    The United States is redoubling diplomatic efforts and looking to upcoming regional meetings to calm the waters after an international tribunal invalidated the legal basis of Beijing's extensive claims in the South China Sea. VOA State Department correspondent Nike Ching has the story.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora