cover image Ledger


Jane Hirshfield. Knopf, $27.95 (128p) ISBN 978-0-5256-5780-4

From the opening poem, “Let Them Not Say,” to the closing, “My Debt,” the masterful ninth book from Hirshfield (Come, Thief) is an account of how “We did not-enough” to save the world. Most poems are no longer than a page, though some are considerably shorter (“My Silence” is only a title). They are set against a page and a half of prose in the middle of the book about “Capital” which, for the writer, is language “as slippery as any other kind of wealth.” Through this juxtaposition, Hirshfield urges a reckoning of human influence on—and interference with—the planet. In “As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us,” she begins: “As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting” and ends, underscoring humanity’s obliviousness: “We scrape from the world its... wonder.../ Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.” Hirshfield suggests that people are unable, or unwilling, to comprehend their role in their own destruction: “If the unbearable were not weightless we might yet buckle under the grief.” Hirshfield’s world is one filled with beauty, from the “generosity” of grass to humanity’s connection to the muskrat. This is both a paean and a heartbreaking plea. (Mar.)