News / USA

Poet Embraces Late-in-Life Love, Tender Sorrows

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

In
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
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

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

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.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs