From its opening epigraph, On Love takes the subjects of and fusion, autonomy and blur. The initial up separateness progression of fifteen shapely and passionate lyrics (including a sonnet about the poet at seven, a villanelle about the loneliness of a pioneer woman on the prairie, and an elegy for Amy Clampitt) opens out into a sequence of meditations about love. These arresting love poems are spoken by a gallery of historical figures from Denis Diderot, Heinrich Heine, Charles Baudelaire, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Gertrude Stein, Frederico Garcia Lorca, Zora Neale Hurston, and Colette. Personal, literary, On Love is formally adept and moving, a volume to be read and reread.
Straightforward and precise, these poems, almost exclusively in narrative form, beckon the reader with their immediacy. Gracefully confirming the inextricable links between self and family, Hirsch, winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award for Wild Gratitude , is, at his best, captivating, transforming tremendous respect for and fascination with his Eastern European roots and Chicago upbringing into enlightened, richly detailed verse that artfully side-steps sentimentality. Less favorable works are static, insulated: like home movies when forced upon a nonrelative, they unfortunately exclude and occasionally bore. When Hirsch ventures outside his own experiences, the most ambitious example of this being ``And Who Will Look Upon Our Testimony,'' a long poem ostensibly about black death in 14th century Europe, he demonstrates his acuity as an observer and poet: `` `In the midst of this pestilence, there came / To an end . . .' / Fortunate are those who come afterward, / The unfallen inheritors of earth / Who turn away from the Dance / Of Death dying in the mind.'' With humility and passion, Hirsch illumes the contradictory resilience and weakness of the human spirit. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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November 03, 2003
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