Premiering Wednesday, September 21, 2022.
This program is made possible by the Caroline Roberts Barnum and Julianne Barnum Follansbee Fund
Naomi Shihab Nye calls Ledger, “some of the most important poetry in the world today.” It is a pivotal book of personal, ecological, and political reckoning tuned toward issues of consequence to all who share this world’s current and future fate. Ledger‘s pages hold the most important work yet by Jane Hirshfield, one of our most celebrated contemporary poets. From the already much-quoted opening lines of despair and defiance (“Let them not say: we did not see it. / We saw”), Hirshfield’s poems inscribe a registry, both personal and communal, of our present-day predicaments. They call us to deepened dimensions of thought, feeling, and action. They summon our responsibility to sustain one another and the earth while pondering, acutely and tenderly, the crises of refugees, justice, and climate. They consider “the minimum mass for a whale, for a language, an ice cap,” recognize the intimacies of connection, and meditate upon doubt and contentment, a library book with previously dog-eared corners, the hunger for surprise, and the debt we owe this world’s continuing beauty. Jane Hirshfield, in poems described by The Washington Post as belonging “among the modern masters” and by The New York Times as “passionate and radiant,” addresses the urgent immediacies of our time. Ranging from the political, ecological, and scientific to the metaphysical, personal, and passionate, Hirshfield praises the radiance of particularity and reckons the consequence of the daily. Her poems and essays traverse the crises of the biosphere and of social justice. Her work lives in the intersections of facts and imagination, desire and loss, impermanence, and beauty— all the dimensions of our shared existence within what one poem calls “the pure democracy of being.” Beauty, long listed for the 2015 National Book Award; Given Sugar, Given Salt, a finalist for the 2001 National Book Critics Circle Award; and After, short-listed for England’s T.S. Eliot Award and named a “best book of 2006” by The Washington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, and England’s Financial Times. Her two collections of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (1997) and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (2015), have become classics in their field, as have her four books collecting and co-translating the work of world poets from the past: The Ink Dark Moon: Love Poems by Komachi & Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Japanese Court; Women in Praise of the Sacred: 43 Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women; Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems; and The Heart of Haiku, on Matsuo Basho, named an Amazon Best Book of 2011. Hirshfield’s other honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets; Columbia University’s Translation Center Award; The Poetry Center Book Award, The California Book Award, the Northern California Book Reviewers Award, and the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Her work appears in The NewYorker, The Atlantic, The Times Literary Supplement, The New York Review of Books, Poetry, and ten editions of The Best American Poetry. In 2004, Jane Hirshfield was awarded the 70th Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by The Academy of American Poets, an honor formerly held by such poets as Robert Frost, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Elizabeth Bishop. In 2012, she was elected a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In 2017, in conjunction with reading to an estimated 50,000 people on the Washington Mall at the first March For Science, she co-founded Poets For Science, housed with the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University. In 2019, she was elected into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Hirshfield has taught at Stanford University, UC Berkeley, Bennington College, and elsewhere. An intimate and profound master of her art, her frequent appearances at universities, writers’ conferences, symposia and festivals in this country and abroad are highly acclaimed. Her poems and essays have been translated into over a dozen languages and her work has been set by numerous composers, including John Adams and Philip Glass. Her TED-ED animated lesson on metaphor has received over one million views.
About Chautauqua Institution: Chautauqua Institution is a community on the shores of Chautauqua Lake in southwestern New York state that comes alive each summer with a unique mix of fine and performing arts, lectures, interfaith worship and programs, and recreational activities. As a community, we celebrate, encourage and study the arts and treat them as integral to all of learning, and we convene the critical conversations of the day to advance understanding through civil dialogue. CHQ Assembly is the online expression of Chautauqua Institution's mission.