A new volume of poems by the award-winning author of October Palace.
A gifted writer in midcareer, Hirshfield has published her fourth collection of poetry in tandem with a book of essays geared toward the creative writing student. The poems are of the momenteach a single gesture encompassing the dichotomies of presence and absence, life and death, being and not-beingand are heavily influenced by classical Japanese verse Hirshfield helped translate with Mariko Aratani (Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems, by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu) and the Zen Buddhism she has studied for many years: "I turn my blessing like photographs into the light;/ over my shoulder the god of Not-Yet looks on." The best are tragic in their unencumbered vision of human limitation; in one, the speaker listens to a piano played movinglyindeed, even more so, because it is played haltinglyand is ashamed "not at my tears, or even at what has been wasted,/ but to have been dry-eyed so long." Several of the nine essays in Nine Gates originated as lectures presented at writers' conferences. Clear and methodicalsometimes to the point of tediousnessthey discuss the process of poetry with examples from standards like Frost, Yeats, Larkin, Whitman, and a few contemporaries. More individual are the discussions of non-Western verse and aesthetics and the process of translation from Japanese (Hirshfield cannot read Japanese and admits her translations were done cooperatively with a native speaker). In a rare personal confession, she describes herself to the late poet Richard Hugo, whom she did not know: "I don't write much/ about America, or even people. I'd often enough rather/ talk to horses." Indeed, it is the quiet restraint of these writingspoems and prosethat appeals. Recommended.Ellen Kaufman, Dewey Ballantine Law Lib., New York