Friday, 4 January 2013


                                                            Lay back the darkness

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
on an obscure mission through the hallway.

Help me, spirits, to penetrate his dream
and ease his restless passage.

Lay back the darkness for a salesman
who could charm everything but the shadows,

an immigrant who stands on the threshold
of a vast night

without his walker or his cane
and cannot remember what he meant to say,

though his right arm is raised, as if in prophecy,
while his left shakes uselessly in warning.

My father in the night shuffling from room to room
is no longer a father or a husband or a son,

but a boy standing on the edge of a forest
listening to the distant cry of wolves,

to wild dogs,
to primitive wing beats shuddering in the treetops.

Lay Back the Darkness is Edward Hirsch’s sixth poetry collection. The themes of insomnia, survival, and art are introduced in this collection. Hirsch would revisit these themes in subsequent collections. It is obvious that the poet identifies with those who struggle to find purpose in living and who refuse to give up the fight to survive. Hirsch marvels at the resiliency of humans and recognizes how hard-won the idea of going on can be in the face of horrendous evil. 
Lay Back the Darkness ends with “The Hades Sonnets.” This sequence includes a cycle of ten sonnets. At the so-called midpoint of his life, Hirsch understands the need to come to terms with how death fits into the cycle of life, to appreciate both the light and the darkness.
The poet sets out to write heartfelt verse without pandering to cheap sentiment. In the title poem, Hirsch speaks of the tragedy that befell his elderly father, who suffered with Alzheimer’s disease. In the night he is shuffling from room to room on an obscure mission, He wants a nice sleep for his father but he is not able to help him out in anyway. The poet wants that his father being a salesman could charm everyone except the darkness of his life. His father is not able to remember anything what he meant to say. With such images as “My father in the night shuffling from room to room/ is no longer a father or a husband or a son,/ but a boy standing on the edge of a forest/ listening to the distant cry of wolves,/ to wild dogs,/ to primitive wingbeats shuddering in the treetops,” the poet expresses his frustration and anger at what has happened to his father.
“Lay Back the Darkness” can be looked at as an important transitional collection for Hirsch. The collection should stand as a foreshadowing of a new maturity that will serve him both as a man and most certainly as a poet.


                                           What the Last Evening Will Be Like
You're sitting at a small bay window
in an empty café by the sea.
It's nightfall, and the owner is locking up,
though you're still hunched over the radiator,
which is slowly losing warmth.

Now you're walking down to the shore
to watch the last blues fading on the waves.
You've lived in small houses, tight spaces—
the walls around you kept closing in—
but the sea and the sky were also yours.

No one else is around to drink with you
from the watery fog, shadowy depths.
You're alone with the whirling cosmos.
Goodbye, love, far away, in a warm place.

Night is endless here, silence infinite.

 Hirsch has written this Poem in a very simple and elegant way. It has a deep meaning if one try to understand. In the starting of the poem we will find that how a person’s life is. They are with everyone but still they are alone. The poet has described the same thing over here that even though it’s a last evening what a person expects and feels. “The poet describes what peace of mind we want even though it’s a last evening of our life”. This poem can be felt by everyone who will read it deeply. 

The poem is about that we expect in our life.He is sitting on the window in an empty cafe near by the sea and the owner wants to close it as its nightfall. Now he is walking down to the shore where he can watch the last blues fading on the waves. He has lived on the small house but when he is seeing the sea and the sky it’s totally ours. He is not feeling the loneliness although no one is there with him even to have a drink. He is happy to spend his last evening of his life in such a nice place. He knows that even no one is there with him but the sea and the sky were always going to be there with him. Seeing the sea he is totally calm and even he has no regret in his life being alone in the last evening. Hirsch has amazingly written this poem giving a lovely message to everyone. I came up with different feelings the more times I read it. The last line of the poem which will touch your heart is... "Goodbye, love, far away, in a warm place.
Night is endless here, silence infinite. ” 


For the Sleepwalkers

Tonight I want to say something wonderful
for the sleepwalkers who have so much faith
in their legs, so much faith in the invisible

arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path
that leads to the stairs instead of the window,
the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.

I love the way that sleepwalkers are willing
to step out of their bodies into the night,
to raise their arms and welcome the darkness,

palming the blank spaces, touching everything.
Always they return home safely, like blind men
who know it is morning by feeling shadows.
And always they wake up as themselves again.
That's why I want to say something astonishing
like: Our hearts are leaving our bodies.

Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs
flying through the trees at night, soaking up
the darkest beams of moonlight, the music

of owls, the motion of wind-torn branches.
And now our hearts are thick black fists
flying back to the glove of our chests.

We have to learn to trust our hearts like that.
We have to learn the desperate faith of sleep-
walkers who rise out of their calm beds

and walk through the skin of another life.
We have to drink the stupefying cup of darkness
and wake up to ourselves, nourished and surprised.

                                                                     ~ Edward Hirsch ~

After reading this poem didn't even want to move on and read the rest of the poems. For the Sleepwalkers by Edward Hirsch had such an air of imagination and intrigue that caught me up and didn't let go. I find the idea of people who are out of the norm and who are envied because of that fact very interesting. This poem also gave me a strong sense that it was about God which I liked. (I don’t know if it is about God, but that is how I saw it.) 

When I read this poem, I thought of the sleepwalkers as people who have such an amazing faith in God that they are essentially fearless. “…the sleepwalkers who have so much faith in their legs, so much faith in the invisible arrow carved into the carpet, the worn path that leads to the stairs instead of the window, the gaping doorway instead of the seamless mirror.” I thought if these lines as saying that the sleepwalkers go places that no one else is willing to go, to the places that are not as familiar or as safe (I thought of some of the places the sleepwalkers go being like death. They have so much faith that even death doesn't scare them; it is just another adventure). And always they wake up themselves again, reminded me of when people tell you that having faith isn't about losing yourself, but about broadening your understanding of yourself through your faith. So when the sleepwalkers get back from their “journey,” they are always still themselves, just with more insight and experience. 

I love how in the end, instead of just talking about the sleepwalkers, Hirsch starts saying, “we,” and, “our,” and pulls himself and the audience into the plot. “Our hearts are thirsty black handkerchiefs….We have to learn to trust our hearts….” The sleepwalkers are just like us and, therefore, we can be like them, free, fearless, and faithful. 

Thursday, 3 January 2013


 Hirsch, whose own lyric poetry yokes together an intrinsic intellect and a profound emotional depth, has been an unflagging advocate for the art. For more than twenty-five years in essays and newspaper columns, at conferences and festivals, in classrooms and auditoriums, at galas and fundraisers he has proselytized, taught, and championed poets and poetry of every ethnic and aesthetic stripe.

Hirsch is at his best when he has not become weighted down by sentimentality. The poet sets out to write heartfelt verse without pandering to cheap sentiment. This terrific formal scope reflects the wanderings of a poet who travels vast distances in his poems, inward and outward, across time and space, between praise and lamentation. 

Hirsch has written elegiac and tender poems about his childhood, his family, and his Jewish heritage. He has also written poems that wield a shrewd historical consciousness, taking on such subjects as the devastating European plague of the fourteenth century, torture in the twentieth century, and the Chicago fire of 1871. His poems have traversed the gritty, urban decay of the American city; the sunstruck peaks of Greece; the windswept, scoured absence of the early plains; and numerous other real, imagined, and mythic landscapes. He has written heartrending elegies and soaring homages to artistic geniuses as varied as Art Pepper, Paul Celan, and Georgia O'Keefe. In fact, Hirsch's poetry tends to be a gathering place for a whole cast of literary and cultural figures, from Simone Weil to Henry James, from Wallace Stevens to Orpheus.

Hirsch believes in the poetic craft, he does not believe in form over content. For him, form must serve the subtle purpose of exposing the heart of the matter. He does not wish, though, to make his journey and the reader’s journey so obvious that the poem becomes nothing more than an advertisement. He has spoken often of the duty required of the “informed” reader. The reader not only must carry the poet’s “message home” but also “must decipher it as a linguistic event, as a rhythmic group of words packed with salt, as a last will and testament.”


Edward Hirsch is an American poet and critic who wrote a national bestseller about reading poetry. He has published eight books of poems which brings together thirty-five years of work. He is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City.

Hirsch was born in Chicago on January 20,1950. He had a childhood involvement with poetry,which he later explored at Grinnell College and the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a PhD in folklore.

Hirsch was a professor of English at Wayne State University. In 1985, he joined the faculty at the University of Houston, where he spent 17 years as a professor in the Creative Writing Program and Department of English.

Hirsch is a well-known advocate for poetry whose essays have been published in the American Poetry Review. He wrote a weekly column on poetry for The Washington Post Book World from 2002-2005, which resulted in his book Poet’s Choice (2006). He also edits the series “The Writer’s World".

Hirsch's first collection of poems, For the Sleepwalkers, received the Lavan Younger Poets Award from the Academy of American Poets and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award from New York University. His second book, Wild Gratitude, received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 1986. He has also received an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, the Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, a Pablo Neruda Presidential Medal of Honor, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award for Literature. He is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. Hirsch’s book, How to Read a Poem and fall in Love with Poetry (1999), was a surprise bestseller and remains in print through multiple printings.