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The October Palace
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Grounded in a series of mediations upon the life of the feeling heart in the world, Jane Hirshfield's long-awaited third collection of poetry explores the ways that radiance dwells most truly in the ordinary, the difficult, and the plain.
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This collection by Hirshfield ( Of Gravity and Angels ), her third, gives us poems grounded in Buddhist thought and the poet's relationship to nature: ``Whatever asks, heart kneels and offers to bear.'' This action of the heart, she implies, is what enables us to reconcile opposites, as Hirshfield does gravely and gracefully in ``The Task,'' writing of a house ``where the leaf-flocked / sunlight never reaches, but the earth still blooms.'' In other poems, instead of allowing the lightness of touch that might follow a Buddhist steadiness of purpose, she insists, ``Everyone loves this way, / in gold honey.'' In another, she writes, ``It is only a sign / of the tree looking out / from the tree, / of the light looking / back at the light.'' These are surmises that no human experience can verify, and sometimes the writing is not urgent or beautiful enough to convince. Other poems are more straightforward, and in particular, her writing about animals assures us we are hearing a truth about the world (and not simply what the poet wants to believe is true). In ``The Love of Aged Horses,'' Hirshfield writes about two horses, soon to be separated: ``From ear-flick to tail-switch, they stand in one body. / No luck is as boundless as theirs.'' The richest of these poems are finely crafted and delicately thought out. (Mar.)

"Jane Hirshfield's new collection of poems, "The October Palace," is an exquisite accomplishment. These serene and painterly mediations quietly blossom into luminous and sensual lyric reckonings. There is an astonishing grace and unparalleled beauty to Jane Hirshfield's poetry; everywhere, the eddies and currents of the natural world reveal themselves to us in their delicate, metaphysical reflections. The cycles of loss ad return, the seasonal rhythms of growth and death, all gather in this volume like the braided strands of a river, as we move towards the book's twin shores of redemption--forgiveness and love." -- David St. John"The prevailing emotional tone in our poetry is elegiac: the lament, doubtless spiced by fear, is for the speed and relentlessness of change. But Jane Hirshfield's poems praise the ceaseless mutability of life as its central splendor. Thus her poems, with their rare combination of grace and velocity, offer us not only their own considerable pleasures, but habits of perception quite different from what our poetry customarily offers." -- William Matthews"Jane Hirshfield's new collection shows her distinctive imagination, clearly nourished by serious commitment to the practice of Buddhist mediation but by no means narrow in range. I enjoy her attentiveness, the concrete details and musicality of her images, and the way abstract and concrete interweave in illumination throughout her work. "The October Palace" is a book to welcome and often return to." -- Denise Levertov

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