Entering the Mind of Poetry

“Every good poem begins in language awake to its own connections – language that hears itself and what is around it, sees itself and what is around it, looks back at those who look into its gaze and knows more perhaps even than we do about who and what we are.  It begins, that is, in the body and mind of concentration.”
– Jane Hirshfield, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperPerennial, 1998)

13 thoughts on “Entering the Mind of Poetry

  1. Michelle Post author

    Andrew! Lovely to see you here. Have you read Jane’s collection of essays? I found the first two, ‘Poetry and the Mind of Concentration’ and ‘The Question of Originality’, particularly fine and insightful

  2. Annie

    I love this. I#ve never heard of this book, but it looks very interesting. am going to go and try and find a copy…

  3. Michelle Post author

    Barbara, I think it may be your cup of tea.

    Also, for those interested, there is a chapter on translation, ‘The World Is Large and Full of Noises: Thoughts on Translation’, and a chapter on Japanese poetry, ‘The Myriad Leaves of Words’.

  4. Keith S. Wilson

    There are essays not just about poetry, but about writing poetry as well? I am asking because I see ‘making poetry’ as a tag, and that is of some interest to me.

  5. Michelle Post author

    Hi Keith,

    Here’s an excerpt from a link on Poetry Foundation:

    “In addition to her verse publications, Hirshfield also wrote Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, a collection of prose pieces. Based on her lectures before writing conferences or adapted from essays published in literary journals, Hirshfield’s essays touch upon such subjects as originality, the nature of metaphoric mind, translation, and the psychological shadow. Praised by Booklist contributor Donna Seaman as an “enlightening volume [that] does exactly what Hirshfield hoped it would: it intensifies our response to poetry, hence to life.” The nine essays cite numerous examples from familiar works written in English, as well as from Japanese works in translation (Hirshfield does not read Japanese). “With her feet firmly planted in both the Western and Eastern canons, Hirshfield delivers a thorough and timely collection on our relationships to poetry, our relationship to the world, and everything in between,” maintained a Publishers Weekly reviewer in praise of Nine Gates.”

    Perhaps you might consider reading up on the volume to ascertain if it will interest you. It’s not a practical, “how-to” book. If you’re looking for a handbook, two I can think of off the top of my head are Ted Kooser’s The Poery Home Repair Manual (University of Nebraska Press, 2007) and Peter Sansom’s Writing Poems (Bloodaxe, 1994).

  6. christine

    Great stuff, Michelle. The way she describes language coincides with other views I’ve read. It’s along the lines of ‘the word became flesh.’ Thoughts are a reflection of our world at this moment in time. In some ways, it’s as though we’re antennae, searching for signals. When we get it right, we’ve tuned into the right one. At least this is what I think Hirshfield might be saying here!

  7. Keith S. Wilson

    No, that sounds very much like what I’d be interested in. How-to’s can be refreshing and even helpful, but I always find myself reaffirming the same things I already know (Keep writing! Keep reading!). Thanks, Michelle, I’ll check this out. And maybe post a review on my blog, if the mood strikes me.

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