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The Heart of Haiku (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Jane Hirshfield
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In seventeenth-century Japan, the wandering poet Basho developed haiku, a seventeen-syllable poetic form now perhaps the most widely written type of poetry in the world. Haiku are practiced by poets, lovers, and schoolchildren, by “political haiku” twitterers, by anyone who has the desire to pin preception and experience into a few quick phrases. This essay offers readers unparalleled insight into the living heart of haiku—how haiku work and what they hold, and how to read through and into their images to find a full expression of human life and perceptions, sometimes profound, sometimes playful.

Jane Hirshfield is an award-winning poet and author of the now-classic Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, as well as an equally classic book introducing earlier Japanese poetry, The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Komachi and Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Japanese Court.


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
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0057IYMF4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #28,799 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
93 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another gate opened by Jane Hirshfield June 23, 2011
By Sussu
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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32 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Poetic discussion of Basho and Haiku June 23, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine piece from one of our best poets June 23, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding "silly verse" June 25, 2011
By Madfoot
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gift June 25, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Heart of Poetry July 8, 2011
By Jim
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely little book July 13, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful book July 16, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
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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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Found it to be excellent reading especially in understanding where and...
Found it to be excellent reading especially in understanding where and how Haiku originated. The poems where lovely and the journey of the poet extraordinary to say the least. Read more
Published 16 days ago by mark cohen
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
ok
Published 24 days ago by Jacqueline Stufflebean
5.0 out of 5 stars This is a beautifully written exploration of the haiku of Basho
This is a beautifully written exploration of the haiku of Basho, in which Hirshfield captures in prose both the simplicity and depth that characterize Basho's haiku. Read more
Published 1 month ago by T. M. Adair
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written and helpful
Helpful for a novice!
Published 1 month ago by TF
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Should be taught in high schools.
Published 1 month ago by Veda smith
5.0 out of 5 stars (WI) I realized that his explanation of light and shadow completely...
I read this during a week-long watercolor workshop with Thomas Schaller at Madeline Island School of Art. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars enlightening
Quite wonderful. I have always loved Basho, and this book places his haiku in context. It reveals his personal/universal/spiritual concerns.
Published 3 months ago by Judith
4.0 out of 5 stars Gentle writing
A non-professional(?) take on haiku that I found very helpful and informative.
Published 3 months ago by df
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Always loved haiku. It creates impressions with a minimum of words. Basho was a master of this genre.
Published 3 months ago by Michael Keane
4.0 out of 5 stars A good read
Basho is a favorite of mine. Interesting background info on the poet and nice selection of poems. A light read. Could have been longer.
Published 4 months ago by Shelly Thorene
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More About the Author

Jane Hirshfield is the author of seven collections of poetry, including the newly released 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. 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 also edited and/or 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, The American Poetry Review, Poetry, McSweeney's, Orion, seven volumes of The Best American Poetry (including the forthcoming 25th anniversary Best of the Best American Poetry volume), and many other publications, and has been featured numerous times on Garrison Keillor's Writers Almanac program, as well as 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 Award in American Poetry.

Hirshfield's work has been called "passionate and radiant" by the New York Times Book Review, and After was described in the San Francisco Chronicle's Book Review 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 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 moving 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, with scientist Carl Pabo.


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