The long-awaited new and selected collection by the author of “some of the most important poetry in the world today” (The New York Times Magazine), assaying the ranges of our shared and borrowed lives: our bonds of eros and responsibilities to the planet; the singing dictions and searchlight dimensions of perception; the willing plunge into an existence both perishing and beloved, dazzling “even now, even here”
In an era of algorithm, assertion, silo, and induced distraction, Jane Hirshfield’s poems bring a much-needed awakening response, actively countering narrowness. The Asking takes its title from the close of one of its thirty-one new poems: “don’t despair of this falling world, not yet / didn’t it give you the asking.” Interrogating language and life, pondering beauty amid bewilderment and transcendence amid transience, Hirshfield offers a signature investigation of the conditions, contradictions, uncertainties, and astonishments that shape our existence. A leading advocate for the biosphere and the alliance of science and imagination, she brings to both inner and outer quandaries an abiding compass: the choice to embrace what is, to face with courage, curiosity, and a sense of kinship whatever comes. In poems that consider the smallest ant and the vastness of time, hunger and bounty, physics, war, and love in myriad forms, this collection—drawing from nine previous books and five decades of writing—brings the insights and slant-lights that come to us only through poetry’s arc, delve, and tact; through a vision both close and sweeping; through music-inflected thought and recombinant leap. With its quietly magnifying brushwork and numinous clarities, The Asking expands our awareness of both breakage’s grief and the possibility for repair.
About the Author
JANE HIRSHFIELD is the author of ten collections of poetry and two now-classic collections of essays on poetry’s deep workings, and the editor of four co-translated books presenting world poets from the deep past. Hirshfield is one of American poetry’s central spokespersons for concerns about the biosphere and interconnection. Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations and from the Academy of American Poets; the Poetry Center Book Award and the California Book Award; her books have been long- and finalist-listed for the National Book Award, National Book Critics Circle Award, and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry. Her work, translated into seventeen languages, appears in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Review of Books, The Times Literary Supplement, and ten editions of The Best American Poetry. A former chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences in 2019.
"Hirshfield is our poet of wonder and compassion. . . . [The Asking] represents a lifetime of vocation . . . attentive to life’s vicissitudes and the task of creating meaning through our lives without sure answers to ultimate questions." —Spirituality and Practice
“If bigness is a measure of poetry, or radius of impact let’s say, then Jane Hirshfield easily ranks among the giants. . . . Hirshfield’s poems permeate our lives: they bless our weddings, show us why we must equate love with grief, they speak our own mythology and that of the Greeks’, they remind us to turn to the pleasures of skies, rivers and mountains while encouraging venture for the sake of venturing, and show us if we are open to it, how to greet the mystery of the self. . . . [Her poems'] meditative and tranquil qualities carry the body and heart. This volume is a gift.” —Debbra Palmer, New York Journal of Books
"Hirshfield’s mindfully measured poems, inquiries into the mysteries and fundamentals of being alive, of being human, are essential works . . . her lyrics are lushly observed and deeply questioning as well as nimble, imaginative, witty, and poignant . . . Her profound attunement to life's interconnectivity inspires her incisive dismay over our roughshod decimation of the great living web that sustains us. Hirshfield’s exquisitely formed, intricate reckonings incandesce in this necessary collection." —Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)