The Asking: New and Selected Poems

Knopf. Sept. 2023. 368p. ISBN 9780593535950. $35. POETRY
In her latest poetry collection, multi-award-winning poet and essayist Hirshfield (The Ledger; Ten Windows) offers poems from nine earlier collections as well as a generous sampling of new work. Hirshfield’s poems reveal a strong connection to nature and a deep understanding of humanity. In striking language, she explores the deliciousness of food, her deep connections to animals, and the companionship of lovers and friends. In “For What Binds Us” she writes, “And when two people have loved each other/ see how it is like a/ scar between their bodies.” It is not just the living Hirshfield ponders but also the departed: “The dead do not want us dead;/ such petty errors are left for the living./ Nor do they want our mourning.” She often employs list poems, as when she describes a mountain: “Its night and day hawk-life, slope-life, fogs, coyote, tan oaks.” Hirshfield has a way of slipping into the minds of animals and knowing what they know. In “Heat,” the poet writes about her mare: “She’d widen her nostrils,/ sieve the world for news.”
VERDICT A superb collection from a remarkable poet whose prodigious talent grows with every addition to her oeuvre.
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