In this innovative series of public lectures at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, leading contemporary poets speak about the craft and practice of poetry to audiences drawn from both the city and the university. The lectures are then published in book form by Bloodaxe, giving readers everywhere the opportunity to learn what the poets themselves think about their own subject.Jane Hirshfield examines the roles of hiddenness, uncertainty and surprise as they appear in poetry and other works of literature, in the life and psyche of the writer, and in the broader life of the culture as a whole.Poetry and Hiddenness: Thoreau's HoundExplorations of hiddenness go back to the beginning of literature. There is no paradise, no place of true completion, that does not include within its walls the unknown. In this lecture, Hirshfield explores the centrality and necessity of hiddenness in our lives, and elucidates both the uses of hiddenness and hidden meanings in the work of writers ranging from Homer to Cavafy, from Auden to Jack Gilbert. Poetry and UncertaintyTo be human is to be unsure, and if the purpose of poetry is to deepen the humanness in us, poetry will be unsure as well.
This lecture illuminates the ways uncertainty - in poems, and in life - allows both broadened feeling and enlarged knowledge. Translations are central to this talk, which includes poems by Izumi Shikibu, Anna Swir, Fernando Pessoa and Paul Celan. Poetry and the Constellation of SurprisePoems preserve their inaugural newness in part because they are like the emotions - not object, but experience, event. Poems that last are those that do not lose the power to astonish. This lecture examines surprise as a central, unrecognised fulcrum of great poems. Three poems are then looked at in detail by Hirshfield as test-cases: 'Ithaka' by C.P. Cavafy, 'Oysters' by Seamus Heaney and 'Nothing Gold Can Stay' by Robert Frost.
Jane Hirshfield was born in 1953 in New York and lives in northern California. Her first book of poetry published in the UK was Each Happiness Ringed by Lions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe, 2005), which draws on her collections Alaya (1982), Of Gravity & Angels (1988), The October Palace (1994), The Lives of the Heart (1997) and Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001). Her latest collection, After (Bloodaxe Books, 2006), is a Poetry Book Society Choice and was shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot Prize. Jane Hirshfield edited the bestselling anthology Women in Praise of the Sacred (1994), and co-translated The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono No Komachi and Izumi Shikibu (1988) - another bestseller in the States - and, with Robert Bly, Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems (2004). Her own poetry was translated into Polish by Czeslaw Milosz, who also wrote the introduction to her Polish Selected Poems. She has won numerous literary awards.