Ledger: Poems

Image of Ledger: Poems
Release Date: 
March 10, 2020
Reviewed by: 

“Ledger records Hirshfield’s most intimate sentiment as she navigates her surroundings, some of which are so profound that words cannot describe them.”

Jane Hirshfield’s latest collection, Ledger, presents readers a multifaceted, diverse, and experimental collection of poems that core the poet’s soul. The poems are deliberately delicate. Hirshfield provides a “ledger” of precise images to admit her most intimate sentiments, many of which are personifications of the natural world. And she is not afraid.

Here are the first three stanzas of “I Wanted to Be Surprised”: “To such a request, the world is obliging. // In just the past week, a rotund porcupine, / who seemed equally startled by me. // The man who swallowed a tiny microphone / to record the sounds of his body, / not considering beforehand how he might remove it.”

Hirshfield uses the unique images in “I Wanted to Be Surprised” along with some pedestrian ones, to show how profound the world is, and how she does not appreciate its unique qualities. In doing so, she juxtaposes emotions of excitement and melancholy.

Hirshfield takes risks. She is not afraid to write experimental poems that risk confusion. “My Silence” is a blank page. All poets wonder how readers would react to a poem without content. Hirshfield seeks reaction.

“My Silence” is a visual poem which clearly relies upon the title for meaning. The poet literally is “silent” and has nothing to say. This makes readers reflect upon life experience and emotions. As if meditating, she provokes reflective thought. She makes us think.

“Advice to Myself” is a perfect example of how Hirshfield captures human contemplation. “The computer file / of which / I have no recollection / is labeled “advice to myself . . . a mystery . . . precisely as I must / have done / on August 19, 2010, 11:08 a.m.”

This poem cites a specific moment in personal history and reflects upon how nothing has changed over time, thus implying a sense of longing and desire to be something more, to break life’s monotony.  

Here is the entirety of “Biophilia”: “Most of us hungry at daybreak, sleepy by dark. / Some slept, one eye open, in water. / Some could trot. / Some of us lived till morning. Some did not.” An unusual word, “biophilia” means to interact, or be associated with, with nature.

Hirshfield directly personifies nature and the daily lifecycle of animals in this poem. She teaches us that nature is all around us, as if mundane, so she draws our attention to how the natural world behaves almost exactly as humans do.

Ledger records Hirshfield’s most intimate sentiment as she navigates her surroundings, some of which are so profound that words cannot describe them. Poems demand multiple reads and require readers to core their personal feelings and how they engage the natural world.

The collection is more geared toward adult poetry lovers, as many poems are very abstract. The poems are also diverse, ranging from simple to complex. Even so, everyone should crack the spine and challenge their poetics, to push the art of poetry beyond traditional mechanics into something entirely new and exciting.