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Poem: Notebook

From our poet of the month: Jane Hirshfield

Face of a honeybee close up

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A poem rummages the self and the tongue for this moment’s response.”

Notebook

A venus flytrap can count to five.
Crows and bees recognize faces.
Mice suffer when seeing a mouse who is known to them suffer.
Trees warn one another to alter their sap as beetles draw near.

Our one remaining human distinction: 
a pre-Copernican pride in our human distinction.

“Arthritis in both ankles!” 
Neruda wrote in a notebook,
January 3, 1959, on a boat leaving Valparaíso for Venezuela,

limping like an old race horse, then starting his poem.

Excerpted from Ledger by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright © 2020 by Jane Hirshfield. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Listen to Jane Hirshfield read “Notebook”:

Jane Hirshfield shared her insight with S&H:

“Writing a poem is not, for me, a matter of cobbling together what is already known or seen. A poem may begin with what’s known and seen, but to become a poem, it needs also to become the record of some further investigation and exploration. 

A poem rummages the self and the tongue for this moment’s response. The next moment’s response will be different. Yet each moment asks of us just this creative attending, under every circumstance and weather of a life.”

Read more from Jane Hirshfield: the poems “Practice,” Falcon,” and “A Ream of Paper.”


About the Author

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is the author of nine books of poetry and has edited and co-translated four books presenting the work of world poets from the past. Her books have received the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and the Donald Hal-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Her poems appear in a wide range of outlets. A resident of Northern California, she is a chancellor emerita of the Academy of American Poets.

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