The Asking

Jane Hirshfield


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Bloodaxe Books Ltd
21 March 2024
ISBN: 9781780376790
360 pages

From the publisher

Jane Hirshfield is a visionary American writer whose poems ask nothing less than what it is to be human. Both sensual meditations and passionate investigations of our shared and borrowed lives, they reveal complex truths in language luminous and precise. In an era of algorithm, assertion and induced distraction, Jane Hirshfield's poems bring a much-needed awakening response, actively countering narrowness. The Asking includes work from her earlier retrospective, Each Happiness Ringed by Lions (2005), as well as drawing upon four later collections, After (2006), Come, Thief (2012), The Beauty (2015) and Ledger (2020), along with a selection of 31 new poems. It is a Poetry Book Society Recommendation. The book takes its title from the close of one of those 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 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.