Ledger by Jane Hirshfield
Published 26th March 2020
Jane Hirshfield’s urgent new collection is a book of personal, ecological and political reckoning. Her poems inscribe a ledger personal and communal, a registry of our time's and lives’ dilemmas as well as a call to action on climate change, social justice and the plight of refugees.
The poems of Ledger record riches, both abiding and squandered, and mourn our failures. They confirm, too, the continually renewing gift of the present moment, summoning our responsibility as moral beings to sustain one another and the earth’s continuance. Finally, it is the human spirit and the language of poetry— loyal instruments of recognition, humility and praise —that triumph in this stunned, stunning accounting, set forth by a master poet whose voice is tonic and essential, whose breadth of inclusion and fierce awareness rivet attention.
'From the opening poem, “Let Them Not Say", to the closing, “My Debt”, the masterful ninth book from Hirshfield is an account of how “We did not-enough” to save the world. Most poems are no longer than a page, though some are considerably shorter (“My Silence” is only a title). They are set against a page and a half of prose in the middle of the book about “Capital” which, for the writer, is language “as slippery as any other kind of wealth”. Through this juxtaposition, Hirshfield urges a reckoning of human influence on – and interference with – the planet. In “As If Hearing Heavy Furniture Moved on the Floor Above Us", she begins: “As things grow rarer, they enter the ranges of counting” and ends, underscoring humanity’s obliviousness: “We scrape from the world its... wonder.../ Closing eyes to taste better the char of ordinary sweetness.” Hirshfield suggests that people are unable, or unwilling, to comprehend their role in their own destruction: “If the unbearable were not weightless we might yet buckle under the grief.” Hirshfield’s world is one filled with beauty, from the “generosity” of grass to humanity’s connection to the muskrat. This is both a paean and a heartbreaking plea.' – Publishers Weekly on Ledger
‘Jane Hirshfield is a poet very close to my heart.’ – Wislawa Szymborska
‘A profound empathy for the suffering of all living beings…It is precisely this that I praise in the poetry of Jane Hirshfield…In its highly sensuous detail, her poetry illuminates the Buddhist virtue of mindfulness.’ – Czeslaw Milosz, Prze Kroj (Poland)
‘Her poetry is a rich and assured gift…an extraordinary intertwining of cherished detail and passionate abstraction…The poems’ realised ambition is wisdom.’ – Alison Brackenbury, Agenda