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The Heart of Haiku (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition

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Length: 29 pages

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

To hear Jane Hirshfield tell it, the 17th-century Japanese poetry scene was a cross between a Surrealist "exquisite corpse" session and a sake-lubed rap-battle circuit. But this is just one of the historically enlightening gems packed into her beautiful essay on Matsuo Bashō, the most famous purveyor of haiku. Packed with original translations, The Heart of Haiku is an elegant and reverent exploration of an itinerant artist who "wanted to renovate human vision by putting what he saw into a bare handful of mostly ordinary words, and… to renovate language by what he asked it to see." Absolutely no prior interest in poetry is necessary to take from Hirshfield's essay the inspiration to drop everything, walk out in to the wide world, open your eyes, and find out for yourself that "even the briefest form of poetry can have a wing-span of immeasurable breadth." --Jason Kirk

Product Details

  • File Size: 94 KB
  • Print Length: 29 pages
  • Publication Date: June 21, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0057IYMF4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #21,758 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Jane Hirshfield is the author of eight collections of poetry, including the newly released THE BEAUTY (Knopf, 2015),COME, THIEF (Knopf, 2011), AFTER (HarperCollins, 2006), which was named a "Best Book of 2006" by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and England's Financial Times, and a finalist for England's prestigious T.S. Eliot Prize; GIVEN SUGAR, GIVEN SALT (finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award), THE LIVES OF THE HEART, THE OCTOBER PALACE, and OF GRAVITY & ANGELS, as well as a now-classic book of essays, NINE GATES: ENTERING THE MIND OF POETRY and the newly released TEN WINDOWS: HOW GREAT POEMS TRANSFORM THE WORLD (Knopf, 2015). She is also the author of THE HEART OF HAIKU, an Amazon Kindle Single exploring the essence of haiku and its 17th-century founding poet, Matsuo Basho, which was named a "Best Kindle Single" and an "Amazon Best Book of 2011."

Hirshfield has additionally edited and co-translated three books collecting the work of poets from the past: THE INK DARK MOON: Love Poems by Komachi & Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan, WOMEN IN PRAISE OF THE SACRED: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women, and, with Robert Bly, MIRABAI: ECSTATIC POEMS.

Hirshfield's other honors include The Poetry Center Book Award; fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets; Columbia University's Translation Center Award; and the Commonwealth Club of California's California Book Award. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The Nation, Harper's The American Poetry Review, Poetry, The Paris Review, McSweeney's, Orion, eight volumes of The Best American Poetry (including the 25th anniversary Best of the Best American Poetry volume), and many other publications. Her work has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac program, and she appears in two Bill Moyers PBS television specials. In fall 2004, Jane Hirshfield was awarded the 70th Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by The Academy of American Poets, an honor formerly held by such poets as Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. In 2012, she was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets, and also named the third recipient of the Donald Hall--Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry.

Hirshfield's work has been called "passionate and radiant" by the New York Times Book Review, and described by the San Francisco Chronicle as evidencing "the grasp of a master" and "filled with somber, judiciously lit treasures." A starred review in Booklist describes "poems of exquisite restraint and meticulous reasoning," while a British magazine, Agenda, states, "The poems' realized ambition is wisdom." The Washington Post describes Hirshfield as taking her place in the "pantheon of modern masters." Never a full-time academic, Hirshfield has been a visiting professor at UC Berkeley and elsewhere, a member of the Bennington College MFA faculty, and has appeared widely at writers conferences, literary centers, and festivals both in this country and abroad. Her books have appeared on bestseller lists in San Francisco, Detroit, Canberra, and Krakow.

Jane Hirshfield was born in New York City in 1953 and was a member of the first graduating class at Princeton University to include women. After graduating, she did a year of farm labor in New Jersey before travelling, slowly, west in a Dodge van with tie-dyed curtains. She studied Soto Zen intensively for eight years, including three in monastic practice at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in the wilderness inland from Big Sur, and received lay ordination in 1979. She has cooked at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, driven 18-wheel truck, worked as the independent editor of several books that have sold in the millions, and spent four years living without electricity. She now lives in the San Francisco Bay Area in a small white house surrounded by fruit trees, a vegetable garden, lavender, and roses.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

96 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Sussu on June 23, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Jane Hirshfield's Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, a series of deep but approachable, gentle but commanding essays on poetry, is my favorite book on literature of all time. I am not a poet myself, but a life long admirer of poetry. Hirshfield illuminates the poet's mind and experience with the authority of an accomplished poet, but with a total lack of self-importance or contrivance. She brings that same wonderful depth of knowledge to this piece - a must for anyone who loves the haiku form - or wants to write better tweets! Hirshfield never disappoints, and I can't recommend this short piece highly enough for anyone fascinated by one of the most intricate and deceptively simple poetic forms, the haiku.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Diane in Los Angeles on June 23, 2011
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I love poetry. I love Haiku. But the one book of Basho's poetry that I've had before this gem had such a drearily dull introduction that it put me off the poetry for a good long while. Now Jane Hirschfield brings her poet's voice to the topic, and poet's insights to Haiku and Basho. Even from the first few lines, I knew I was in good hands. What a happy bargain this is!
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful By Joe Flower on June 23, 2011
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Jane Hirshfield's sparkling prose rivals her poetry. This essay on Basho and the origins of Haiku call to mind her delicious 1990 book Ink Dark Moon, translations (with Mariko Aratani) of the love poems of Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, women of the ancient court of Japan. I find Hirshfield's observations not only insightful, in a scholarly way, but luminously informed by her long practice as a poet.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Madfoot on June 25, 2011
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I'm the daughter of a poet, yet I'm sometimes dissatisfied with my lack of understanding of the poetic form. My mom gifted me with an ear for cadence and rhythm, which means I can write a limerick in no time flat and readily win online haiku contests with little effort. But I feel weirdly guilty this ability; I had the sinking suspicion that I've been missing out on something huge by treating the haiku as nothing more than the playful form it was before Basho got ahold of it. Thank goodness I picked up this thoughtful essay by Jane Hirshfield, a wonderful poet in her own right (After: Poems, etc). Haiku is great as playful verse, but she has managed to explain to me that there's so much more to it than I had realized, and I can begin to slow down and enjoy it on a deeper level. How cool is that?
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Therese Flanagan on June 25, 2011
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I first encountered Jane Hirshfield's poetry in The Atlantic; it was June of 1996 that I read "Three Foxes by the Edge of the Field at Twilight" on my computer and then heard her reading her poem on RealAudio. I was entranced, and thus began my journey. I found The Lives of the Heart: Poems and fell in love with her work. The true test of a poet's strength, for me, is if lines of their poetry come back to me unbidden -- I know, then, that the poetry has taken root. Hirshfield's poetry can make that claim. I have purchased several copies of Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry to hand out to friends; it is a book that I consider essential. We took turns reading poems from Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women at the bedside of a loved one; those poems, those ancient voices, provided vessels for our grief. I will always be grateful that they were so thoughtfully woven together and made available in this anthology.

The essay on Basho is a gift of thought about form. There is nothing to do but accept the gift and bow to the generosity. It is wonderful.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte A. Moore on July 13, 2011
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I won't go on and on here. Will just say that I finished this small treasure of a book on my Kindle and went straight back to the beginning to read the first chapter again. Loved the biographical parts, the fascinating material about the traditions of Japanese poetry, and the haiku. This is a keeper -- and what a price!!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Jim on July 8, 2011
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This is a beautifully written essay on haiku and specifically on Basho, but more than that it is an essay about why poetry matters and how it matters. I've been writing and reading poetry for forty years now, and I felt I learned a tremendous amount from this essay. At the same time, I can see that it would make a wonderful gift for someone new to reading or writing poetry since it speaks so directly and eloquently (and with such love) about poetry. Hirshfield manages to bring together so much of Basho's story so quickly and gracefully. He becomes a living character and her translations (along with her co-translator) bring his poetry alive. Here is a poet paying tribute to another poet, saying a large yes to the life embodied in poems and passing along to us some wonderful translations from Basho. It made day to stumble across this book early this morning, and I will be returning to it often.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Sharon A. Villagomez on July 16, 2011
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When I bought this book, I really had no idea what it was. But Jane Hirshfield and 99c? How could I go wrong? Then, to be reading this fascinating story about a 17th century Japanese poet--and LOVING it! It took me by surprise and in the very best way.
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