Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

After

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

After

Article excerpt

POETRY After, by Jane Hirshfield. HarperCollins, February 2006, $23.95.

The sixth collection of Hirshfield's poetry comes to us with much anticipation (Given Sugar, Given Salt, her fifth book of poetry, came out in 2002) and proves that it is more important than ever for contemporary poets to concern themselves with our lived world, our fears and unease, and bring light to the places of our consciousness that need a fierceness like Hirshfield's to keep them alive.

Often meditative and short, the poems in After have a starkness that is often disarming. She writes in "After Long Silence," "words are not the end of thought, they are where it begins." As the first poem in this collection, it sets the tone for where the collection will go: confidently confronting the intangibility of human existence. These poems' topics range from global warming to insomnia, passion, cheese making, and sneezing. She engages historical figures from Rembrandt, Poe, and Tu Fu to Linnaeus, Roget, and Darwin. The beauty of these historically engaging poems, though, is that they remain firmly tied to our contemporary world. …

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