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

    Candidates' Comments Fly Like New Hampshire Snowflakes

    Four days ahead of the country's first-in-the-nation Republican and Democratic party primary elections, surveys show the parties' contests tightening

    South Korea Says North Korea Moving Closer to Rocket Launch

    In phone call, US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping agree that Pyongyang's move would be 'provocative'

    Australian Commander: IS Changing Tactics

    Head of Australian forces in Middle East talks with VOA about training Iraqi troops, countering evolving Islamic State efforts and defeating extremism

    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.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.