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

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine Could Be in Use by January

update U.S. Homeland Security says all passengers arriving in US from Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone must fly into one of five airports equipped with enhanced screening for Ebola 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.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid