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Earthly Measures


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Edward Hirsch's strong, arresting poems have been praised from the start of his career. Of his second book, Wild Gratitude, Robert Penn Warren said, "I am convinced that the best poems here are unsurpassed in our time". This, his fourth collection, contains his finest work. From gritty, apocalyptic views of the urban Midwest to brilliantly empathetic portrayals of Simone Weil and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, the range of poems is at once wide and subtle. "In the Midwest" speaks of the nightmare of abandon and decay; "From a Train (Hofmannsthal in Greece)" is the poet's compelling view of a timeless landscape; "The Italian Muse" is a meditation on Henry James in Rome; "Luminist Paintings at the National Gallery" beautifully evokes the sense of nineteenth-century American countryside. There is an argument about transcendence in these poems, an evocation of American spaces and European landscapes, a quest for reconciliation to the earth as it is. Hirsch's work, as Anthony Hecht has said, "has not only the courage of its strong emotions, but the language and form that makes and keeps them clear and true".

From Publishers Weekly

Jan 31, 1994 – The measures of Hirsch's ( The Night Parade ) fourth book of poetry are anything but earthly. These poems court the extremes of experience from transcendence to acedia: the moment of death, spiritual crisis, intense nostalgia. The lofty reach of the poems derives in part from the poet's chosen subjects; many of them portray, in verse narrative, episodes from the lives of Simone Weil, Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Leopardi and Henry James. He generally brings great insight and sympathy to the writers and thinkers he imagines. However, one can find ``something strained / and oracular in these incandescent vistas / and glowing atmospherics.'' At times, the tone plunges from high drama to melodrama, or to farce, as in his villanelle, ``The Romance of American Communism.'' Elsewhere, Hirsch renders intimate moments with affecting emotional precision: ``As we stood by the window in a waning light / Or touched and moved away from each other / And turned back to our books. But it remained / Even so, like the thought of a coal fading / On the upper left-hand side of our chests, / A destination that we bore within ourselves.'' The poet rarely stays at home. His poems inhabit a distinctly poetic landscape of old European churches, burnt-out midwestern cities and slumberous suburban tracts. Though, like an expressionist painter, Hirsch has a weakness for the rarefied and poetic moment, we should be grateful for his often profound identification with human dilemmas.
Earthly Measures
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  • $13.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Poetry
  • Published: Sep 17, 1993
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Seller: Penguin Random House LLC
  • Print Length: 96 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: To view this book, you must have an iOS device with iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later, or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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