Jane Hirshfield is an American poet, essayist, and translator. She was born in New York City on February 24, 1953 and received her BA from Princeton University in its first graduating class to include women. In 1979, Hirshfield received lay ordination in Soto Zen at the San Francisco Zen Center.
She has written many books, including “Nine Gates – Entering the Mind of Poetry,” which is a collection of essays on poetry and the poetic form. For any poet, this is a must-read book. Her insights shed new light on ideas and topics that any writer will find helpful and inspiring. I especially love how Hirshfield merges her spiritual proclivities, bringing greater clarity to what makes great poems resonate at a deeper level. For example, her essay on “Poetry and the Mind of Concentration,” highlights how the three definitions of concentration come to fruition in both poets and poetry.
Although she has never been a full-time academic, Hirshfield has taught in many colleges and conferences, including the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.
Although there are many of her poems that I enjoy, one of my all-time favorite Hirshfield poems is “Optimism.”
More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs–all this resinous, unretractable earth.