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Come, Thief

Jane Hirshfield's poetry gives eloquent voice to moments, creatures, and landscapes often overlooked.

By Elizabeth Lund / April 11, 2013

Come, Thief By Jane Hirshfield Knopf 89 pp.

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Jane Hirshfield’s Come, Thief is a must-have collection that beautifully demonstrates why some books should be read more than once. The eloquent volume highlights the importance of paying attention to the moments, creatures, and landscapes that people often overlook. Hirshfield’s keen eye informs every poem, with small details hinting at larger forces. Even pets can be vehicles for greater understanding. In “Narrowness,” she writes: “Day after day,/ my neighbors’ cats in the garden./ Each in a distant spot,/ like wary planets./ One brindled gray,/ one black and white,/ one orange./ They remind of the feelings:/ how one cannot know another completely.”

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Hirshfield, who has published six previous collections, uses gorgeous imagery, as always, to convey the bittersweet nature of life and to explore timeless subjects such as beauty, loss, and envy. She skillfully serves as both shaman and teacher, nudging readers toward a compassionate, fully engaged perspective, even as time and the transient world seem to steal what people love.

“There is no kindness here, no flint of mercy,” she says in “The Pear.” Yet the act of watching and witnessing still provides meaning and richness. Few contemporary poets can render a moment as well as Hirshfield, whose work has earned many awards and appeared in six editions of The Best American Poetry.

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