Home » Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise: Three Generative Energies of Poetry by Jane Hirshfield
Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise: Three Generative Energies of Poetry Jane Hirshfield

Hiddenness, Uncertainty, Surprise: Three Generative Energies of Poetry

Jane Hirshfield

Published March 10th 2008
ISBN : 9781852247973
64 pages
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 About the Book 

Three rather erudite essays about poetry, one each dedicated to hiddenness, uncertainty, and surprise. Why? Because, Jane believes, good poetry depends on at least one of these, better on two, and best on all three. No surprise there!The first essay impressed me most not so much for JHs connections to poetry but to nature. She is well-versed in the importance of hiding and camouflage to life. Good poems, then, have ideas that often hide in plain view.She quotes Keats: Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard are sweeter. Thus is hiddenness equated with imagination and wistfulness.She quotes Emerson: Sleep lingers all our lifetime about our eyes, as night hovers all day in the boughs of the fir tree. As anyone who has ever written a poem can tell you, the night hovering in fir trees on sunny days is really what they are after when they take pencil to paper, keyboard to monitor. Speak, antithesis, and all that.In uncertainty, JH praises committing ourselves to the toss. Yes, poetry is controlled, but it is also tethered uncertainty with all its lovely contradiction. Leap, and you land in new locations, changing the perspective and leading, perhaps, to discovery.We must, then, make of uncertainty a home, says JH. I can only add in reply, Dont we do this already as part of the Faustian deal called life? We enter and must accept quotidian uncertainty until Death seals the deal (and most certainly, too).Finally, best of all, surprise. I particularly liked this essay because JH spends some time unpacking three wonderful poems: Cavafys Ithaka, Seamus Heaneys Oysters, and Frosts Nothing Gold Can Stay. I was very familiar with the first and last, less so with the middle, but I was glad to meet Heaneys poem and found it stood in good company without being overwhelmed in the least.If youre looking for earth-shattering insights into poetry, this might not be the book. JHs is a lighter touch. Her essays wander like a child in a garden with time on her hands. Before long, she is hidden. Before long, her presence in the garden becomes uncertainty until -- surprise! -- she emerges from its topiary maze and shows off her knowledge.Leisurely and edifying, then. And a voice of both innocence and experience....