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Come, Thief: Poems Hardcover – August 23, 2011

4.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“A deep well full of strength and wisdom.” —The New York Times

“Vibrant . . . This celebrated American poet clearly savors the material world but does not shy away from seeing past it . . . In these clear-eyed and luminous poems, she has borrowed from the great Tang Dynasty masters and fused style and philosophical outlook into a fresh way of representing experience.”—The Washington Post

“Passionate yet controlled poems.” —The Times Literary Supplement

“Hirshfield’s lucid poems are philosophical and sensuous, concise yet mysterious. Ruefully funny and irreverently reverent. They are also gloriously earthy as she looks deeply at trees, animals, insects, and our own wondrous if betraying bodies . . . Wittily deductive and metaphysically resplendent, Hirshfield’s supple and knowing poems reflect her long view, her quest for balance, and her exuberant participation in the circle dance of existence.” —Booklist

“Buddhism and aphorism, outdoor delights and indoor wisdom have all attracted readers to Hirshfield’s spare and approachable lines; the poet navigates securely between praise and advice, mostly in clearly quotable form.” —Publishers Weekly

“In Come, Thief, poet Jane Hirshfield focuses on the lovely but overlooked things in everyday life: stones that are beautiful only when wet, maples setting down their red leaves, the rosy and gold and stippled pattern of her grandfather’s watch. Using clear, straightforward language, she finds the meaning in what could be—in less observant hands—the meaningless, often with a flash of unexpected humor.”  —Oprah.com

“Significant is that the smallest thought can house the largest idea. The universe can be found in a drop of rain or a grain of sand, but we have to know what to look for and how to see. Then there is belief. These poems start with the belief that we have the capacity that the poet has, and it requires a kind of faith in the reader.” —The Washington Independent Review of Books

“[Hirshfield] is a visionary. Rarely making spirituality and her own long Zen practice her overt subject, Hirshfield nonetheless makes poems which possess a subtle lucidity that is accessible and understated on the one hand, and suffused with a resonant “beyonding” of the self and the quotidian on the other. Her poems press the experiential  . . . in order to transcend soma and solipsism.” —The Chronicle of Higher Education

“The best writers linger over every word, and each line break and segue from image to image; Hirshfield is clearly one of our most precise, careful poets. And Come, Thief , with its flawless construction, is the kind of book that can inhabit you, can even begin to color how you see the particulars of the world. These poems wear a kind of detached delight on their sleeves.” —Basalt Magazine

“Her seventh volume of poetry, Come, Thief, lures readers into a world rich with alchemical reflections and personal metaphoric revelations. Her verse explores the bitter sweetness of morality through breathtaking details found in the natural world and cradles the reader close with profound simplicity.” —Pacific Sun

About the Author

Jane Hirshfield is the author of six previous collections of poetry, a now-classic book of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, and three books collecting the work of women poets from the past. Her awards include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Academy of American Poets, and the National Endowment for the Arts; three Pushcart Prizes; the California Book Award; The Poetry Center Book Award; and other honors. Her poems appear regularly in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, and Poetry and have been included in six editions of The Best American Poetry. Her collection Given Sugar, Given Salt was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and After was named a “Best Book of 2006” by The Washington Post, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the United Kingdom’s Financial Times. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (August 23, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307595420
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307595423
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 0.6 x 8.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #541,515 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Katy Butler on August 29, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Jane Hirshfield's poems manage to be voluptuous and stoic at the same time. In her latest, she runs out naked in the sun, sells her grandfather's gold watch to be melted down, touches the falling face of an old lover, eats an egg, runs out naked in the rain. But even as she shouts *more* to the sensual world, she knows she will lose, if she hasn't already lost, what she savors. That doesn't stop her from tasting, or yearning, or noticing.

As she moves into her 50s, some of these poems address loss via aging and the deaths of friends -- unless I'm just noticing them more for my own reasons.

Here is her precise image of the fraying mind of a well-educated friend with Alzheimer's: "When a fine old carpet/is eaten by mice/ the colors and patterns/of what's left behind/ do not change."

Here is a short poem in its entirety called


"When hearing went, you spoke more.
A kindness.

Now I must."

She's also a smart thinker. She has been my favorite contemporary poet since I read "For What Binds Us," a declaration of pride in the scars left by love. Reading her subtle, spare, yet quietly ecstatic work sharpens my own thinking and writing. I took this book to bed with me and read poem after poem. Here is an excerpt from one of the last poems in "Come Thief" that seems almost like a bookend to "For What Binds Us."

"A Hand is Shaped for What It Holds or Makes":

....Beloved, grown old separately, your face
shows me the changes on my own.
I see the histories it holds, the argument it makes

against the thresh of trees, the racing clouds, the race
of birds and sky birds always lose:
the lines have ranged, but not the cheek's strong bone.
Read more ›
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Jane Hirshfield is a poet without trying. She has a way with words. They say about some, "the camera loves them" but I think words love Jane then. She has a language all her own. She is able to say so simply what I feel unfolding in me with each word. She is able to capture the definition of what it means to be human, the human element, the loss, the sheer cosmic joke of human existence. She's amazing. There was rarely a page in this entire book where I didn't want to slap myself for not having written what she had, and had done so simply and so beautifully. She says in so few words what I can't yet say in this review about her. She is amazing.
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Format: Hardcover
Such an amazing book! Jane Hirshfield has long been my favorite poet for her perspicacity, her habit of long seeing, her ability to pull the string taut so that the poem transforms itself and the reader in the same moment.

This is my new favorite Hirshfield collection. Its hand is sure, its voice mature and magical. You will love this work.
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Jane Hirshfield's latest volume helps further cement her reputation as one of America's best contemporary poets. One notes a slight shift stylistically with these poems: many are shorter in form, from the haiku-like "Pebbles" to "Sentencings", which bring to mind James Richardson's "Aphorisms", as well as a haibun and several other shorter works. But their brevity only intensifies their message and often stunning imagery. Hirshfield dabbles in formal and rhymed poetry here, more so than in previous work: one fine example is her villanelle, "A Hand is Shaped for What It Holds or Makes". Among the longer poems is the delightful "Shadow: An Assay", perhaps a carryover from the "assays" in her previous collection, After. It seems inevitable that maturing poets tackle mortality as a recurring theme; but as expected, Hirshfield handles it eloquently. Among the most moving are two poems, presumably about an ailing friend, "The Pear" and "Alzheimer's". This book is a rich and varied collection of poems on love, death, praise, and the little reflective moments of life. Hirshfield draws us into those moments and transforms them into epiphanies, often employing a startling and unexpected image or metaphor, as in the short poem "Love in August", where a moth at the door is described as "two hands/of a thief//who wants to put/back in your cupboard/the long-taken silver." There is no shortage of subtle humor in these poems, either, as in "Sweater", an ars poetica where she pokes a little fun at herself and her Zen lifestyle: "Irrefusable, the shape the sweater is given,/stretched in the shoulders, sleeves lengthened by unmetaphysical pullings on." This is an exquisite collection, one that you will want to read over and over again.
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On the second reading of this collection of Jane's poetry I gained more appreciation and insight. There are layers to the poems that make this book one I'll reread again.

Some of these poems are idea-based and follow Jane's early training. Others, like 'The Kind Man' and 'Alzheimer's', look more personally at family and friends.

I reread the collection following the order of the Acknowledgements list, which gave different perspectives for some poems and made me aware of how reading order can affect a poem's impact on the reader. Another plus for poets, the long Acknowledgments list of journals where the poems originally were published offers a way of finding journals for poets to submit their own work.
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