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On Love: Poems Hardcover – May 19, 1998

3.1 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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The Underground Railroad
The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent tour de force chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Hirsch writes a controlled, precise, formally ambitious verse reminiscent of the new critical concoctions of a young Richard Wilbur or Anthony Hecht. Reading this fifth collection (which follows 1994's Earthly Measures), one is always aware of a formidable intelligence, wide reading, and an ambition to connect the poet's own achievement with the great poetry of the past. The defects of Hirsch's style, however, are brought out equally clearly by his decision to focus nearly every poem on the title theme, a subject that demands at least as much passion as craft. The poems in the first section of the book are personal, their main themes being the poet's childhood, his Jewishness, and his marriage. Here Hirsch sees love as a longing for transcendence: "Touching your body/ I was like a rabbi poring/ over a treatise on ecstasy, the message hidden in the scrolls." In the second half, a sequence that provides the book's title, Hirsch is impersonal: each poem addresses the subject of love in the voice of a famous writerAStein, Lawrence and Wilde, among others. It is a highly artificial premise, made more so by the incredibly strict forms: the poems are mainly modified sestinas, in which words are often rhymed with themselves (often to the detriment of both sense and rhythm). Unfortunately, these poems are too much pastiche and puppet show; Hirsch doesn't inhabit his speakers so much as employ the most basic clich?s about them. Thus in "Bertolt Brecht," we encounter the phrases "free love," "Karl Marx," and "means of production"; in "Denis Diderot," we find "Rational Will," "encyclopedia," and "enlightening." Hirsch's conceit is an interesting one, familiar from his other books (including the NBCC Award-winning Wild Gratitude), but here it fails to get beyond the level of mere device.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This is Hirsch's fifth published volume of poetry, which follows an impressive series of grants and awards: the Lavan Younger Poets Award, the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, an Ingram Merrill Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Rome Prize from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. On Love lives up to Hirsch's growing reputation as a major American poet. Actually, this book is a dual enterprise. The untitled first section contains a number of moving personal revelations not necessarily touching on love, such as "Blue Hydrangea" (a blossom serving as a metaphor for recovery) or "Hotel Window" (taxi cabs on an urban street serving as an allegory of death), but the second section, "On Love" proper, is a series of "love poems" rendered through a variety of personas: Diderot, Heine, Baudelaire, Meredith Brecht, and others. The effects are often stunning in their complex evocations of the adopted voices as well as Hirsch's own insight. For all poetry collections.?Thomas F. Merrill, emeritus, Univ. of Delaware, Newark
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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The latest book club pick from Oprah
"The Underground Railroad" by Colson Whitehead is a magnificent novel chronicling a young slave's adventures as she makes a desperate bid for freedom in the antebellum South. See more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (May 19, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375402535
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375402531
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 6.3 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,663,527 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
I cannot fathom why someone gave this book one star and I must admit that this review is somewhat of a reaction to that.
I have read a lot of contemporary poetry, and often I find that authors become caught up in personal minutiae that detract from rather than add to the progression of thought and feeling throughout their collections. Hirsch avoids that with a pared down style that makes every word add to a building of depth and feeling.
"Ocean of Grass," for example, is a beautiful villanelle that avoids the trite romanticizing of prairie life and shows hwo harsh life was without succumbing to stereotypes of grizzled sttlers. Hirsch consistently uses forms to enhance the poetry rather than forcing poems into forms.
As a student, I have to make careful choices about what books to buy on my limited budget. When considering what to buy I can only afford to buy the books that have lines going through my head all day until I have to look at the poem and marvel over it some more. On Love is one of those books and a worthy addition to any library.
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By A Customer on December 14, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I must politely disagree with my fellow readers. I enjoyed Edward Hirsch's new book, On Love, completely. This poet, Edward Hirsch, has continued, unabatedly, to define successfully what it means to be human in an often inhumane world. If not for any other reason, I find it important to read his poems for this very reason-- for finding such wisdom has become rare, indeed. And in this collection of poems, as were present in his other books, there are moments of undeniable beauty. I was left speechless by his poem for Amy Clampitt, entitled Iowa Flora, and the poem Blue Hydrangea, among others. I believe this collection of poems to complement his ever-growing and ambitious oeuvre. I would suggest this book to any friend who was interested in reading great poetry in a time when great poetry is more harder to find than ever.
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Format: Paperback
It's apparent that some people find the "Lectures on Love" series of poems forced and prentious. I don't agree that these poems "sound like Hirsch"; instead, I find myself astonished at how varied the voices are-- in addition, I think that Hirsch remains true to the voices of the characters/writers he inhabits. (This is particularly true of the Baudelaire poem.) But the most impressive aspect of these poems in their formal integrity-- and they are very difficult and orginal forms that Hirsch employs! Also, the poem "The Painting of Pan" is fabulous-- it is one of the most unsettlingly sensual poems I've ever read. Check it out.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Great poet
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