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Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essays Paperback – August 26, 1998

4.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

The author of five previous poetry collections and a book of essays, Jane Hirshfield has been a finalist for both the National Book Critics Circle Award and England’s T. S. Eliot Prize for Poetry, and she is the winner of the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and fellowships from the Academy of American Poets, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, The Nation, the Los Angeles Times, and multiple volumes of The Best American Poetry and Pushcart Prize anthologies.

Amazon.com Review

Gary Snyder writes that Jane Hirshfield's essays have "a diamond-hard set of insights to share" about the nature of poetry. Hirshfield approaches poetry from a number of angles and discusses a wide-ranging body of work, including ancient Egyptian love poets, Allen Ginsberg, W. B. Yeats, Emily Dickinson, Stevie Smith, and Li Po. Hirshfield is also a fine poet, and this skill tempers her insights with humility: she knows she is attempting to explain the inexplicable, so she doesn't try to disentangle the mystery. Especially recommended is the engaging "Poetry and the Mind of Indirection." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial (August 26, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060929480
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060929480
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By James Hiller VINE VOICE on December 9, 2000
Format: Paperback
Jane Hirshfield is either a genius or a fool. To even attempt such an undertaking, to explore the "mind of poetry" is quite an insurmountable task, the Mount Everest of literature. I opt for the former description, based on my reading of "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry".
Rich, eloquent, heady, beautiful, Hirshfield attempts to explore what I assumed to be an unexplorable realm, the heart and essence of this muse. Each essay is not only brilliant, but manages to autopsy several regions that poetry encompasses in a respectful and honest way. Her first essay, "Poetry and the Mind of Concentration", is a tour de force in and of itself, the rest of the book follows suit. She uses some of the finest poetry at her disposal to bring credence to her commentary.
For a poetry writer, for a poetry lover, if you read Jane Hirshfield's book, "Nine Gates", you'll leave it forever changed in the way you approach the gift of poetry.
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Format: Paperback
Jane Hirshfield's "Nine Gates" is probably the most interesting and insightful book I have read on the art and uses of poetry. While Hirshfield's approach to poetry is very much informed by (and often illustrated through) her knowledge of Asian arts and Buddhist philosophy, one need not be a Buddhist or a scholar to understand and appreciate her vision. Hirshfield is most interested in approaching poets and poetry through the essential work that they perform by helping us to understand the natures of, and the relationships between, the self and the world (that is, community in its largest sense). The book's argument is hardly as abstract or fanciful as this might sound, however. Instead, Hirshfield uses this approach to show how the most basic elements of poetry (rhythm, rhyme, image, and so on) function to help the poem build its meaning and fulfill its purpose. "Nine Gates" is an excellent book to strengthen your ability to read poetry, and to deepen your understanding and appreciation of this vital art.
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Jane Hirshfield's "Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry" is one of those books that would serve a very broad audience if only intrinsic worth were the driver for PR. For all the "self help" books that that drop on and off the Best Seller List like theatre popcorn, this sharing of what many would deem an obsolete facet of mental exercise is simultaneously a gift to writers AND a guide to experiencing communication in more ways than poetry. Hirshfield is a gifted poet and her comforting and immensely helpful insights will aid even the most "blocked" poet. She addresses "originality", finding the way toward ethereal concentration, adroitly answers begging questions regarding translation of poems in other languages......all with the most sensitive excerpts of poetry imaginable to illustrate her points. This little tome is not only for the writing poets, it is for those who wish to understand the mystery of the meaning of poetry.
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Format: Paperback
Essays by poets vary widely in scope. Some seek to portray the "revolutionary" nature of the poet's ideas. Others get lost in craft or in the needless pedantry concerning schools of poetics. Jane Hirshfield instead presents the coherent well-written prose of a synthesist. The result provides an effective rumination upon the "mind" (or "spirit") of poetry.
Ms. Hirshfield uses literary and religious allusion freely, but this is no glib new age-ish miracle cure about the artist's "mystic journey". Instead, she uses the symbols of faith and skepticism as a rich metaphoric base to try to explore the goal and inner working of the effort to write a poem.
This work does not pretend to be some Quran of poetics, complete unto itself or changeless. Instead, the author surveys her task like a visitor to the crater of diamonds park, hunting for something shining among the crystal.
What I like about this book is that for all its rich allusion and reflections on symbolism, it's an accesible, affirming and non-saccharine take on why we are poets, and what it means to us.
My only quibble with her work is that the influence of eastern thought on the western American poets comes through much more clearly than the effect of the American experience on these same poets.In the poetry I read, Sandburg, Millay, and Forche spring from very different places with radically different voices, and yet each has an "American" tone that is unmistakable. It's not a matter of "nationalism" per se, but a matter of history and the lasting impression of the American experience. It's not a fault of the book at all, but a perspective I missed.
I think this is a great book to own for anyone who has pondered the "big questions" of poetry--what does it mean? why do I write?
In the abstract, an essay on poetic philosophy sounds filled with dull pretension. This book is anything but dull.
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Format: Paperback
...sometimes we need a personal classic to draw comfort from.

This past year when both grandmothers passed away, the soft voice of poetic comparison helped ease the heart.

In my small opinion, this is an inspired and gentle voice to turn to and read. And also reread.

I hope you also enjoy this reading experience.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
At first I rebelled against the author's devoting pages to a discussion of poetry translation. However, once I dug hard into

her elegant but fairly dense prose, the more I found it fascinating, (including (of all things) certain esoteric aspects of Japanese language and poetry as well as translation.

I have begun reading NINE GATES for a second time, and I suspect not for the last. Although scholarly, the book is also moving, touching and definitely inspiring for any artist, poet or not.
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