Writers Write shares writing tips and resources. In this post, we share why Jane Hirshfield writes.
She is the author of nine books of poetry, including Ledger; The Beauty; Come, Thief; and Given Sugar, Given Salt. She is also the author of two now-classic collections of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, Essaysy and Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World.
Her books have received the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Academy of American Poets.
Hirshfield has taught at the University of California, Berkeley; Bennington College; and elsewhere.
She wrote this for The National Writing Project.
Why Jane Hirshfield Writes
“Why do I write?
I write because to write a new sentence, let alone a new poem, is to cross the threshold into both a larger existence and a profound mystery. A thought was not there, then it is. An image, a story, an idea about what it is to be human, did not exist, then it does.
With every new poem, an emotion new to the heart, to the world, speaks itself into being. Any new metaphor is a telescope, a canoe in rapids, an MRI machine. And like that MRI machine, sometimes its looking is accompanied by an awful banging.
To write can be frightening as well as magnetic. You don’t know what will happen when you throw open your windows and doors.
Why write? You might as well ask a fish, why swim, ask an apple tree, why make apples? The eye wants to look, the ear wants to hear, the heart wants to feel more than it thought it could bear…
The writer, when she or he cannot write, is a person outside the gates of her own being.
Not long ago, I stood like that for months, disbarred from myself. Then, one sentence arrived; another. And I? I was a woman in love. For that also is what writing is. Every sentence that comes for a writer when actually writing—however imperfect, however inadequate—every sentence is a love poem to this world and to our good luck at being here, alive, in it.”
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