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Gabriel: A Poem Hardcover – September 2, 2014

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (September 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 038535357X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385353571
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 0.5 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (29 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #22,876 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Hirsch's lightening-lit portrait of and surging lament for his hurricane of a son is a courageous, generous, and reverberating epic of fatherly love and mourning."--Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred reivew

"Embedded within Gabriel is a picaresque novella about a tempestuous boy and young man, a part Hirsch calls 'the adventures of Gabriel...' [The poet] Eavan Boland described Gabriel as 'a masterpiece of sorrow. . . the creation of the loved and lost boy is one of the poem's most important effects.'"--Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker

Unpunctuated, unrhymed triplets serve Hirsch’s grief and tell his story well. . . a near-unforgettable book-length verse memoir describing the life and death, the rambunctious childhood, the adventurous youth, the funeral, and the enduring memory, of the poet’s only son."--Publishers Weekly

"Gabriel resists sentimentality at every line break, though it is the most heartfelt poem I have read."--Tim Adams, The Observer
“Gabriel is an exquisite document of loss.”--Michael Andor Brodeur, Boston Globe

About the Author

Edward Hirsch has published eight books of poetry and five books of prose. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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See all 29 customer reviews
I'm pretty sure Mr. Hirsch would never use even that level of metaphor for his son's death.
Theda Bara
It is easy to read and so powerful, evocative of the struggle of loving and helping a difficult child, and mostly the terrible work of grief.
Susan S. Paddock
I read this book having lost my wife 4 months ago, and shortly after that having seen her nephew laid out in his coffin at the age of 22.
Bruce L. Prickett

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

30 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Theda Bara on September 7, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This poem reminded me of something. I pulled Emily Dickinson, John Ciardi's Dante, and Felix Feneon's Novels in Three Lines off the shelf. Dickinson was too nineteenth century, but plenty of truth there. Ciardi had the three-line stanza, but he was doing Dante and had to haul out every word he knew. Feneon was closest. As a journalist, he had to call death by its right name.

In his new book-length poem Gabriel, Edward Hirsch has given his dead son a proper send off and he has begun the task of placing the boy's life in some sort of perspective. It takes a special lens. Gabriel was an adopted child born with a mysterious developmental disorder that made him impetuous, impatient, and loud. No school could hold him. He never had the natural fear of danger that keeps most of us alive. He was never, his father tells us, scared enough of drug dealers, one of whom sold him the tab of GBH that carried him off. I'm pretty sure Mr. Hirsch would never use even that level of metaphor for his son's death. The poem has no sentimentality, no anodyne phrases, no metaphors or euphemisms for death. The death of Gabriel was ugly, sudden, frightening, and final. When I read the poem, I felt lucky to glimpse this remarkable child's life. Fierce energy, sleepless always, loud opinions about everything and everyone, he was loved and his father writes, with an even, steady hand, of his life and his death.

What I value most in this poem, after learning about what happened to Gabriel, is the use of language. It is restrained conversation, quiet, precise and respectful. And it's all here. Hirsch places Gabriel as a baby in the context of his childless marriage, the joy of the baby's arrival and the slow realization that Gabriel would be a challenge in every sense.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By vivian brandler on September 25, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Unfortunately, I belong to the growing group of parents who have lost a child to the rising epidemic of drug overdose affecting all segments of society, all cultures and in all communities. "Gabriel" is an elegy written by a father compelled to express with readers, the complicated beauty and struggle with his son before and after he lost him to a drug related death. We are unfortunately gifted with this incredible elegy. We are sadly grateful to receive such an intensely descriptive piece from Edward Hirsch's oeuvres. We are thoroughly honored to have such an accomplished, articulate and important writer share his experiences with us, his readers, as we welcome his voice and offer our condolences to him for his loss.
The anguish of experiencing the trauma of losing a child is captured uniquely, candidly and completely in this extremely moving work, "Gabriel". Reading Edward Hirsch's words describing his son, Gabriel, I felt a deeply profound connection. At times I felt as though he was describing my son or other sons I have read about in my G.R.A.S.P. support group. (Grief Recovery After Substance Passing - Facebook Group) The timing of the release and publication of this important work coincides with the upcoming March on Washington, "Fed Up", and other efforts being made by parents who demand there be changes made to stop this heartbreaking epidemic. Wouldn't it be great if some how, something would change? Mr. Hirsch's courage to express his experience will certainly get the attention of many many people.
I am fascinated with Mr. Hirsch's writing, rich with references and invitation to find and read other writings, including classic and mythological works that describe the tragedy in the loss of one's child.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By H. F. Corbin TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 20, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
It is almost impossible to adequately describe or do justice to Edward Hirsch's heart-wrenching elegy about the short life and death of his son Gabriel. Consisting of three-lined stanzas with no punctuation that extends for 78 pages, it is part biography, part ode, part lament--you name it. Mr. Hirsch does an amazing job of letting the personality and life of his beloved son come through these grief-soaked lines. Hirsch and his wife Janet Landay adopted their son Gabriel when he was an infant and welcomed him into their lives. We got glimpses of his childhood, troubled young adulthood and ultimate early death from an apparent accidental drug overdose: "He was trouble/But he was our trouble." Interspersed among the lines that lets us see who his son was, Mr. Hirsch includes the stories of other poets throughout history who have lost children, surely what is the ultimate horror of every parent, what is completely unnatural: the burial of a child

Much of this poem will break your heart:

In the casket I hope it's comfortable
He would have scorned the old Jew
We hired to sit with him overnight

Janet [you have to love this woman] didn't want him to be by himself
I'm sure he was annoyed by the prayers
I wonder if he believed in God I never asked

He was sometimes scared
He was never scared enough

Of scoundrels and drug dealers

After Gabriel disappeared, his parents tried to find him:

We called 911 every day
The police refused to help us

We begged them to help they refused
Because he wasn't under sixteen or over sixty-five

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