Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry

Jane Hirshfield (Author)
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A Gate Enables passage between what is inside and what is outside, and the connection poetry forges between inner and outer lives is the fundamental theme of these nine essays.

"Nine Gates" begins with a close examination of the roots of poetic craft in "the mind of concentration" and concludes by exploring the writer's role in creating a sense of community that is open, inclusive and able to bind the individual and the whole in a way that allows each full self-expression. in between, "Nine Gates" illumines the nature of originality, translation, the various strategies by which meaning unfolds itself in language, poetry's roots in oral memory and the importance of the shadow to good art.

A person who enters completely into the experience of a poem is initiated into a deeper intimacy with life. Delving into the nature of poetry, Jane Hirshfield also writes on the nature of the human mind, perception and experience. "Nine Gates" is about the underpinnings of poetic craft, but it is also about a way of being alive in the world--alertly, musically, intelligently, passionately, permeably.

In part a primer for the general reader, "Nine Gates" is also a manual for the working writer, with each "gate" exploring particular strategies of language and thought that allow a poem to convey meaning and emotion with clarity and force. Above all, "Nine Gates" is an insightful guide to the way the mind of poetry awakens our fundamental consciousness of what can be known when a person is most fully alive.

Product Details

$15.99  $14.71
Harper Perennial
Publish Date
August 26, 1998
5.3 X 0.6 X 7.9 inches | 0.4 pounds
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About the Author

The author of five previous poetry collections and a book of essays, Jane Hirshfield has been a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and England's T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and she is the winner of the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and multiple volumes of The Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies.


"Jane Hirshfield dares to write about the mysteries of art, and she approaches them in a way that feels exactly right to me: plainly, reverently, intelligently. She respects subject matter and gives due weight to both past masters and her own intuition. The result is rare and fine: a collection of essays combining the richness of a daybook with the pointed quality of a good lecture." -- Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate of the United States"These expansive, fearless essays are on the basics of--not poesy in any small sense--but mind, wit, stalking, silky focus, the eros of knowledge, the steely etiquette of art. For those who want it, here's guidance toward the power of being in the margin, the calm ease of the center."-- Gary Snyder, author of "Mountains and Rivers Without End""With the exactitude of a surgeon and the sensuous attention of a chef, Hirshfield addresses, essay by essay, the art, craft, and act of making poetry . . . These essays are both brilliantly ambitious--one random passage in her last piece, on 'writing and the threshold life, ' flows 14th-century Japanese poet Ono no Komachi (whose poems she has translated in the past) into Czeslaw Milosz into Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman--and confidently clear." -- "Village Voice" "A cross between a reader's guide to poetry and a how-to guide for would-be poets, Hirshfield's collected essays on poetic understanding read like a series of vigorous, well-documented university guest lectures...With her feet firmly planted in both the Western and Eastern canons, Hirshfield delivers a thorough and timely collection on our relationships to poetry, our relationship to the world and everything in between."-- "Publishers Weekly" "It is thequiet restraint of these writings--poems and prose--that appeals. Recommended."-- "Library Journal"[Hirshfield's] nine essays, or "gates, " range a wide territory, in often strikingly beautiful language, to consider such objects as concentration, prosody, translation, poetry's roots as an oral art form, and the importance of shadow to art and spiritual life."-- "Hungry Mind Review"In the outstanding and lucid critical essays in "Nine Gates, Hirshfield proves that she, like all good poets, is a gifted reader . . . Happily, this enlightening volume does exactly what Hirshfield hoped it would: it intensifies our response to poetry, hence to life."-- "Booklist (starred)