Welcome to poetry month and thirty days of poems from Knopf and its sister imprints. Our first day is devoted to Edward Hirsch, who has just turned sixty, and whose birthday Knopf celebrates with The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, a volume that provides a rich sampling from his seven collections of poetry to date as well as new poems. Hirsch, also the author of several nonfiction books about poetry, a former editor of the Poet’s Choice column in the Washington Post, an industrious critic and introducer of volumes by poets as disparate as John Keats and L. E. Sissman, is a lively participant in the conversation about poetry, a true ambassador for the art. But his own poems, over the past thirty-five years, are the best of what he has to give us. Here is “Self-portrait,” a frank self-examination that nonetheless touches on his belief that a poem—and the mysterious force of imagination which gives birth to it—can bring us as near to redemption as anything else.
Throughout the month, scroll down for more good things following the poems: links to Edward Hirsch’s tour schedule around the country this month and an interview with Big Think appear below.
Listen to Edward Hirsch reading “Self-portrait.”Audio
S e l f – p o r t r a i t
I lived between my heart and my head,
like a married couple who can’t get along.
I lived between my left arm, which is swift
and sinister, and my right, which is righteous.
I lived between a laugh and a scowl,
and voted against myself, a two-party system.
My left leg dawdled or danced along,
my right cleaved to the straight and narrow.
My left shoulder was like a stripper on vacation,
my right stood upright as a Roman soldier.
Let’s just say that my left side was the organ
donor and leave my private parts alone,
but as for my eyes, which are two shades
of brown, well, Dionysus, meet Apollo.
Look at Eve raising her left eyebrow
while Adam puts his right foot down.
No one expected it to survive,
but divorce seemed out of the question.
I suppose my left hand and my right hand
will be clasped over my chest in the coffin
and I’ll be reconciled at last,
I’ll be whole again.