From one of our most celebrated contemporary poets–long-listed for the National Book Award and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T.S. Eliot Prize–comes Jane Hirshfield’s Ledger, her most important work yet. From its already much-quoted opening lines of despair and defiance (“Let them not say: we did not see it. / We saw.”), Hirshfield’s poems inscribe a registry, both personal and communal, of our present-day predicaments, and call us to action. They summon our responsibility to sustain one another and the earth while pondering, acutely and tenderly, the crises of refugees, justice, and climate. They consider “the minimum mass for a whale, for a language, an ice cap,” recognize the intimacy of interconnection (“lichens, burdocks, mycelial mats between trees– / forgive this hubris”), and apply the lever of questions (“How came separation to chisel, / to cherish, to chafe?”) by which we might begin to find a way forward. Finally, it is the human spirit and words themselves–loyal instruments of recognition, humility, and praise–that triumph in this stunning accounting by an essential poet.
Jane Hirshfield is the author of nine books of poetry, including Ledger; The Beauty; Come, Thief; and Given Sugar, Given Salt. She is also the author of two now-classic collections of essays, Nine Gates and Ten Windows, and has edited and co-translated four books of world poets from the past. Her books have received the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Hirshfield has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets, and presents her work at literary and interdisciplinary events worldwide. Her poems appear in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, The Washington Post, The New York Times, New Republic, Harper’s, and Poetry, and have been selected for ten editions of The Best American Poetry. A resident of Northern California, she is a 2019 elected member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.