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Poet Jane Hirshfield on the Mystery of Existence

Writer Kim Rosen raises questions about Zen, openness, and the “desperation” of the creative process.

Robert Hatch Photography

In the ’90s, I had an inner opening that shifted my entire worldview. Though I’d not been drawn to poetry for years, I found myself turning to Rumi, Kabir, and Mirabai. But I hungered for poems that spoke to the stuff of the world I was living in as well as the timeless truths of the mystics. Luckily, I discovered the work of Jane Hirshfield.In addition to her seven books of poetry, Hirshfield has published several classic books of essays and played a major part in bringing the words of women mystics to modern audiences through the anthologies she edited and co-translated, which include Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women and Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems. She was a full-time student of Zen Buddhism for eight years, three of them in monastic practice.You have been a Zen practitioner for many years. How have your own spiritual path and your evolution as a poet been interwoven? Does your Zen practice teach you about writing poetry? Does your writing teach you about Zen?They are left foot and right foot.Zen is the taste of your own tongue in your own mouth. It’s a way to find …

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