Blog #35: Fathers Leads to Edward Hirsch

One of the great things about research and pursuing a theme is that the journey almost always leads you to unexpected and surprising places. Consider the following sequence: Fathers led me to Rita Dove, who led me to Cynthia Haven’s blog, which led me to Berfrois, which (after leading me back to Rita Dove by way of Harris Feinsod) has led me to Edward Hirsch.

Without Fathers, I don’t think I would have found any of the above treasures. Certainly, without Fathers, I would not have had the audacity to contact–touque in hand, a shameless Canadian mendicant—Cynthia, Berfrois, Harris, and Edward for publicity help. My book has become my shield, and like a Jehovah Witness his bible, I use it to justify accosting complete strangers.

The strangers have often proved generous and helpful. Better yet, to shift from my Odyssey metaphor to Tristram Shandy, my hobby-horse has carried me into new and exciting territory. This weekend, for instance, I have been enjoying Edward Hirsch. Impressed by “I was never able to Pray” in Berfrois, I looked Hirsch up and discovered that he had written several father poems. That led me to stop by the library yesterday, where I picked up copies of Lay Back the Darkness and The Living Fire.

I like the clarity of his saying, and already I treasure poems such as “Three Journeys,” “Earthly Light,” “Dates,” “On the Anniversary of Joseph Brodsky’s Death,” “Krakow, Six A.M.,” and “Two Suitcases of Children’s Drawings from Terezin, 1942-1944.” As well as Jewish culture and the classics, Hirsch often references art. Chardin and the Dutch Masters are important, and there are bright shades of Franz Marc and Marc Chagall in the way several of his poems paint wonder, suffering, memory, and transcendence.

Too bad I didn’t come across him while I was still compiling Fathers. I might well have included one of his father poems, “Indian Summer,” say, or “Playing the Odds.”

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