Book Three: Nine Gates, by Jane Hirshfield



What an incredible book.  I am not sure if I *read* this book as much as I *experienced* it.  I feel as though I have been on a week-long retreat to a space somewhat beyond time and reality, though fully encompassing both.

In “Nine Gates” Jane Hirshfield takes us on a journey through language, communication, identity and community, allowing for multiple rest stops along the way.  As life can sometimes feel stacked, piled and over-flowing, this book managed to re-stretch my relationship to time, as I spent leisurely hours peering into the meaning, quality and presence of poems from Greek to Asian to Modern American, and more..  Hirshfield’s flow through the various chapters is connective and fluid- and I feel that I have a new relationship to words as a result of following her path.

The book explores not just literary devices and history, but the roles that attention, concentration and purpose play in writing.  I would highly recommend it to anyone wishing to go on a poetic journey with a masterful guide.

4 comments on “Book Three: Nine Gates, by Jane Hirshfield”

  1. Ah, Meredith, you have done what I have not (yet). I keep picking this book up, reading a bit of it and loving it, and then finding myself unable to move on because I want to think about it. Then I lose the journey you speak of. Now I see that I should start over and press through to the end. I can always go back later and linger. Thank you!


    1. Hi Teri! Yes, I had a similar feeling when I started the book… I just wanted to stop and linger in the poems and the pages. But, I found after the first couple of chapters a wonderful fluidity and rhythm when I would keep reading- I took it slowly, and paused to reflect rather than stopping completely.. It is such a delightful book – and I am sure I will be going back to re-read passages. She does a complete analysis of Wallace Stevens’ “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” that I bookmarked for when we encounter the poem in ModPo!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Meredith, Thank you for the lovely review. I first became familiar with Jane Hirshfield watching a livestream of the 2017 March for Science. She read “On the Fifth Day,” a poem she composed for the event. As part of the 2017 The Universe in Verse, “On the Fifth Day” was read; this year she read “Optimism.” (You can find clips at: and Masterful poetry and honest storytelling gives me hope; skillful writing helps both the writer and reader understand self and others, create community and inspire movements for change. I’ll add this book to my reading list.

    Liked by 2 people

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