Jane Hirshfield at the Southbank Centre

“A poem is a provisional darning across that [psychic] tear.”

-Jane Hirshfield

Behind Jane Hirshfield, drizzle smeared the windows framing London’s icons to make an impressionist painting. She read generously from new work and old standards, and even revealed some personal detail when asked about the significance of a particular poem in the Q&A. Though myself a former Berkeleyite, I had never heard her read in person. How marvelous to encounter her six thousand miles away. Though confident and grounded, she seemed to be appreciating the poetry alongside us, rather than reinforcing the fourth wall.

In her writing process, Jane embraces negative capability, transience and paradox. For her poetry, like Zen, is about eschewing shorthand categories and embracing the moment with keen observation. Though encompassing, and often wildly associative, the work always seems sure-footed–braiding narrative and philosophy, imagery and music–and always lands in interesting territory, often far from the starting point. Increasingly political, her poems never forget to “tell it slant”, and that poetry always wins out over rhetoric for the purpose of expanding the mind.

What lovely wounds and beautiful scars; what wholeness she weaves from fleeting threads–a magnificent magpie poet, gentle spirit and kindhearted kin.