Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women

Jane Hirshfield, Editor
Jane Hirshfield, Editor HarperCollins Publishers $22.5 (259p) ISBN 978-0-06-016987-9
Paperback - 288 pages - 978-0-06-092576-5
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Edited by poet and Zen devotee Hirshfield (see The October Palace , below), this anthology collects poetry by women from 43 centuries and many countries that speaks to matters of the spirit, from an Osage woman's planting initiation song (``I have made a footprint, a sacred one'') to Maria de' Medici's poem to the virgin (``We mortals reign but over dreams and shadows'') to the musings of medieval martyrs and fully lay contributions from Marina Tsvetaeva, H.D. and Emily Dickinson. The poems, whether deriving from oral or written tradition, are ecstatic in the original sense of the word, that of being placed outside the body; they express the wish for reunion with a deity, whether manifested in a mystical, human or natural form. One of the remarkable aspects of the volume is the tendency of the poetry to embrace the sacred and the worldly simultaneously. Another is the power of the women's emergent conversation: though they are separated by vast distances of eon and geography, the collective energy of their monologues is transformative. Especially notable are work by Mirabai (1498-1565?), a northern Indian bhakti poet; many other Asian writers are represented. The translators include Hirshfield, Arthur Waley, Langston Hughes, Robert Bly and A. K. Ramanujan. Hirshfield has provided excellent introductory notes for all of the writers. (Mar.)
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