The long-awaited new and selected collection by the author of “some of the most important poetry in the world today” (The New York Times Magazine), assaying the ranges of our shared and borrowed lives: our bonds of eros and responsibilities to the planet; the singing dictions and searchlight dimensions of perception; the willing plunge into an existence both perishing and beloved, dazzling “even now, even here”
In an era of algorithm, assertion, silo, and induced distraction, Jane Hirshfield’s poems bring a much-needed awakening response, actively countering narrowness. The Asking takes its title from the close of one of its thirty-one new poems: “don’t despair of this falling world, not yet / didn’t it give you the asking.” Interrogating language and life, pondering beauty amid bewilderment and transcendence amid transience, Hirshfield offers a signature investigation of the conditions, contradictions, uncertainties, and astonishments that shape our existence. A leading advocate for the biosphere and the alliance of science and imagination, she brings to both inner and outer quandaries an abiding compass: the choice to embrace what is, to face with courage, curiosity, and a sense of kinship whatever comes.
In poems that consider the smallest ant and the vastness of time, hunger and bounty, physics, war, and love in myriad forms, this collection—drawing from nine previous books and five decades of writing—brings the insights and slant-lights that come to us only through poetry’s arc, delve, and tact; through a vision both close and sweeping; through music-inflected thought and recombinant leap.
With its quietly magnifying brushwork and numinous clarities, The Asking expands our awareness of both breakage’s grief and the possibility for repair.