Gabriel

Edward Hirsch. Knopf, $26.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-385-35357-1
MacArthur fellow and Guggenheim Foundation president Hirsch (The Living Fire) writes the kind of poem that no poet should ever have to: a near-unforgettable book-length verse memoir describing the life and death, the rambunctious childhood, the adventurous youth, the funeral, and the enduring memory, of the poet’s only son. As a baby, Gabriel “was a trumpet of laughter/ And tears who did not sleep/ Through the night even once.” As a child, he had behavioral disorders that made him hard to handle: “He was trouble/ But he was our trouble.” Gabriel found some happiness—and some equally wild friends—as a young man in New York, but ventured out “during a rainstorm” (apparently Hurricane Irene) “And never came home.” Hirsch mixes in his own reflections on other writers’ mourning for the children they outlived (Words­worth, Mallarme, Mahler) without robbing his memoir of its momentum, nor his outcry at the cosmic injustice when a parent outlives a child. After all the set pieces (the coroner’s report, the rituals of Jewish mourning), Gabriel’s tumultuously charming personality comes through: “He loved twisting rides on roller coasters/ Coins fell from his pockets/ When he was upside-down.” Unpunctuated, unrhymed triplets serve Hirsch’s grief and tell his story well: even readers left unmoved by Hirsch’s earlier offerings may have to reckon with this one. (Sept.)
Reviewed on: 07/21/2014
Release date: 09/02/2014
Open Ebook - 94 pages - 978-0-385-35358-8
Paperback - 96 pages - 978-0-8041-7287-5
Hardcover - 978-0-385-35373-1
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