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Edward Hirsch, Author . Knopf $25 (64p) ISBN 978-0-307-26681-1

This seventh from the popular Hirsch (Lay Back the Darkness ) brings its demotic, heartfelt, autobiographical pieces together to form a picture of Hirsch's whole life, with sadness always visible, but joy in the foreground. He begins with his immigrant “grandfather,/ an old man from the Old World”; remembers “the second-story warehouse” where the young poet “filled orders for the factory downstairs”; and moves on to his own life as a struggling, and then a successful, writer, teacher and father. Jewish and Yiddish heritage, in memory and on canvas (Chaim Soutine, Marc Chagall) pervades the first half of the volume—“Gone are the towns where the shoemaker was a poet,/ the watchmaker a philosopher, the barber a troubadour.” The second half follows Hirsch as an adult, to Houston (where he taught for many years) and back to New York City, where he now heads the Guggenheim Foundation. Closing poems present a passionate new love affair: “I wish I could paint you,/ your lanky body, lithe, coltish, direct.” No one will question Hirsch's sincerity nor his commitment to lyric tradition. Many will be moved by the frankness and vulnerability of these difficult self-assessments: “I'm now more than halfway to the grave/ but I'm not half the man I meant to become.” (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 02/25/2008
Release date: 03/01/2008
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Paperback - 80 pages - 978-0-375-71155-8
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