Writeliving Interview – Edward Hirsch

Edward Hirsch photo

Photo by Michael Lionstar

When I think of poetry, I think of Edward Hirsch. He has had a lasting influence on my writing and reading ever since I had the opportunity after graduate school to spend some with him and other LA writers discussing the works of other poets. I’ve enjoyed his poetry and prose over the years, and I’m thrilled he took the time to share his creative life with us.

– Martin Ott

Who has been a major influence on your writing?

My grandfather, who died when I was eight-years-old, used to copy his poems into the backs of his books. I’m not sure why. After his death, my grandmother gave all his books away, and his poems were lost. When I was in my twenties, increasingly dissatisfied with the coldness of Anglo-American modernism, I turned to some Eastern European poets for guidance. I felt I heard my grandfather’s voice coming back to me in a modified key. I’m thinking of the Hungarian poets Attila József and Miklós Radnóti, the Czech poet Jiří Orten, and the Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert and Tadeusz Różewicz.

Can you give us insight into your creative process?

I try to work every day. I read intensely, respond to the poets who matter most to me, and try to stay inside the feeling of the poem. Every poem is an attempt to work something out—nothing is figured out in advance, either emotionally or formally. I counsel myself to be vigilant and pay attention.

What is the best advice you can give to a writer finding her/his voice and subject matter to write about?

Be brave, go deeper and further. Find models. Try to take your work to its furthest logical conclusion.

After completing Gabriel, such a well-received and personal book of poetry, are you able to share what you’re currently working on?

I’ve been trying to write poems of spiritual inquiry. One is called “God and Me,” another is a variation on a verse from psalm 77 (When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted). That’s the tenor.

What has your passion and advocacy for poetry brought to other aspects of your life?

It has brought me a deep feeling of fulfilling my vocation. It has connected me more deeply to myself while also linking me to other people. I’ve found a community of other people who are also befriended by poetry.

About the Author:

Edward Hirsch has published nine books of poems, including Gabriel: A Poem, a book-length elegy for his son, and five books of prose, among them A Poet’s Glossary, a full compendium of poetry terms.

 

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