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‘I want to keep some room in the world for the quiet and private’

By Harriet Staff

Congratulations are in order to Jane Hirshfield for being awarded the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. From the Concord Monitor:

Jane Hirshfield, who hid her poems under the mattress as a child, will receive the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry on Wednesday night in Concord. The presentation and reading will be at 7 p.m. at the Sweeney Hall Auditorium on the campus of NHTI.

Hirshfield is the third winner of the annual prize, which is presented by the Monitor and the New Hampshire Writers’ Project in honor of Hall and Kenyon. The two poets lived and wrote poetry at their home in Wilmot until Kenyon’s death in 1995 at the age of 47. Hall, who is 84, writes there still.

Hirshfield is a Californian who has written and translated poetry for nearly 40 years. In a recent email interview she discussed her poetry and her life.

Make the jump to read an interview with Hirshfield. Here’s a snippet:

When did you begin to write poetry and why?

I began writing poems so early that I have no clear recollection of how it started. Poems were, I now think, a way of crafting a self, crafting a life, shaping and trying on ways of being, both within myself and in the world. I hid my poems under my mattress – they were a realm of privacy and safety for the shy young girl I was, not something to display to others. I would never want to strip that child of her utter innocence. She wrote without “knowing” anything about poetry, not about her possible future, not about any relationship to poetry beyond her love of it and how writing allowed her to feel.

I’ll add that, in our current culture of encouraging all young writers to publish and perform, I am the one who will say, “Why rush?” It’s the introvert in me perhaps, but I think it is just fine for a young person to write for writing’s own sake, and to delay as long as possible entering that world of outside validation. I know this is incomprehensible to extroverts, and foreign to a culture of Facebook and blogging – but both kinds of young people write, and I want to keep some room in the world for the quiet and private.

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Posted in Poetry News on Monday, October 22nd, 2012 by Harriet Staff.