Poetry Review: “After Long Silence” by Jane Hirshfield

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It has been awhile time since I reviewed a poem at ClimbingSky, something that I used to do quite often. Something I hope to be doing more of again in 2018.

As part of my year of reading women writers and writers of color, I am currently reading Jane Hirshfield’s book of poems entitled After.  I have just started it but already know I have found another poet to add to my list of poets I am going to want to spend much time with.

It happens that way to me. I am combing through a used bookstore and come upon a poet whose name I either vaguely recognize or a title that catches my eye. I open up the book at random and read a poem or two and just like that I have found a new direction.

It has seldom worked the other way around for me with new poets. I cannot think of a poet recommended to me that I came to love, at least not for a few decades. It is always a matter of happy happenstance.

After is Hirshfield’s sixth(?) book, published in 2006. This is the first poem in the book and the one that originally caught my ear and eye.

Enjoy!

After Long Silence
 by Jane Hirshfield

Politeness fades,

A small anchovy gleam
leaving the upturned pot in the dish rack
after the moon has wandered out of the window.

One of the late freedoms, there in the dark.
The leftover soup put away as well.

Distinctions matter. Whether a goat’s
quiet face should be called noble
or indifferent. The difference between a right rigor and pride.

The untranslatable thought must be the most precise.

Yet words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins.

 

Listening with a pencil and my ear, these are the lines I marked:

The untranslatable thought must be the most precise.

Yet words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins.

There is much to like in this poem: the vowels of the second stanza, the line “the moon has wandered out of the window”, the balance of “right rigor and pride.”
But it is the last two lines that made me want to purchase the book and that remind me why I love poetry and why I work to write it myself.