Entering the mind of poetry
I have to say, in entering each gate of Jane Hirshfield’s collected essays, I was immediately immersed into an exploration of the complexity of poetry, and discovering through the process a reverence for the mysterious workings of poetry. Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, is a logical, business-like approach though it is peppered with a Zen Buddhist mind-set. It is designed to help any writer at any stage in their career answer the questions of poetry: What it is, why analyze it, why write it, what is it for and so on. Hirshfield, in her collection of essays written over ten years in a series of free-standing lectures, attempts to convey how a poem has an inner and outer meaning that come together to form itself as a thing of beauty. But I’m not sure if we can ever claim to set configurations on location of meaning. I did enjoy how over several sections in Nine Gates she explores the richness of classical Japanese verse in which she discusses the nuances of translation from Japanese to English. It seems that through her concise description of the nature of poetry in our lives, Hirshfield hopes that readers will move from ordinary conceptions of identity embedded in language, to form more of an intimacy with language and with the self. Still, Hirshfield’s conveyance of her profound intellectual relationship with literature and frequent referenced literary figures and texts suggest that while the book can be read by anyone, it is best suited for those with an English literature background.