Edward Hirsch began writing a column in the Washington Post Book World called "Poet's Choice" in 2002. This book brings together those enormously popular columns, some of which have been revised and expanded, to present a minicourse in world poetry; Poet's Choice includes the work of more than 130 poets-from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and America, from ancient times to the present-and demonstrates how poetry responds to the challenges of our modern world. Rich, relevant, and inviting, the book reveals how poetry both puts us in touch with ourselves and connects us to each other.
I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
Insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
Going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
Taking in and thinking, eating every day.
I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
Alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
Half frozen, dying of grief.
-from "WALKING AROUND" by PABLO NERUDA,
translated by ROBERT BLY
Hirsch's follow-up to his bestselling, NBCC award-winning How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry collects two years' worth of his engaging weekly essay-lettres from the Washington Post Book World. Such a collection is inevitably a miscellany as it ranges from biographic sketches and personal portraits to topical subjects, reviews of new books and eulogies for the recently deceased. The 20th-century giants Yeats, Rilke and Neruda, who served as touchstones in How to Read a Poem, appear alongside such contemporary Americans as Robert Bly, Denise Levertov, Gary Snyder and Dorothea Tanning, and newcomers from Europe, Mexico, the Middle East and Asia. Hirsch also casts back to ancient traditions, although there's a gap between these and modern poets that is filled only occasionally by the likes of the rediscovered John Clare and Giuseppe Belli. Taking over the column early in 2002, Hirsch writes, he felt the burden of discussing poetry in the cultural climate of post-9/11 America. Old themes of grief and loss gain new weight as Hirsch discusses Wallace Stevens's and Mark Strand's approaches and Tom Sleigh's oblique refashioning of Greek and Sumerian verse in "New York American Spell, 2001." Eclectic and idiosyncratic, Hirsch's choices are unified by astute excerpting and keen commentary. (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.