Illinois State Library

Illinois Center for the Book

Individual Author Record

General Information

Name:  Edward Hirsch  

Pen Name: None


Audience: Adult;

Born: January 20, 1950 in Chicago, Illinois

-- Website --
-- Edward Hirsch on WorldCat --

Illinois Connection

Edward Hirsch was born in Chicago, Illinois

Biographical and Professional Information

Edward Hirsch received the National Book Critics award, Prix de Rome and was president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He now lives in New York.

Published Works Expand for more information

Titles At Your Library

On Love: Poems
ISBN: 0375702601

Knopf. 2000

"Life has to have the plenitude of art," Edward Hirsch affirms in his fifth volume of poems, On Love, which further establishes him as a major artist. From its opening epigraph by Thomas Hardy and an initiating prayer for transformation, On Love takes up the subjects of separateness and fusion, autonomy and blur. The initial progression of fifteen shapely and passionate lyrics (including a sonnet about the poet at seven, a villanelle about the loneliness of a pioneer woman on the prairie, and an elegy for Amy Clampitt) opens out into a sequence of meditations about love. These arresting love poems are spoken by a gallery of historical figures from Denis Diderot, Heinrich Heine, Charles Baudelaire, and Ralph Waldo Emerson to Gertrude Stein, Federico Garcia Lorca, Zora Neale Hurston, and Colette. Each anatomizes a different aspect of eros in poems uttered by a chorus of historical authorities that is also a lone lover's yearning voice. Personal, literary, On Love offers the most formally adept and moving poetry by the author Harold Bloom hails as utterly fresh, canonical, and necessary.

Earthly Measures: Poems
ISBN: 0679765662

Knopf. 1996

“These are poems of immense wonder and rigor. To say that they are religious poems is only to recognize their grandeur and generosity, and their heart-breaking longing.”
—Patricia Hampl, The New York Times Book Review

“With Earthly Measures, Edward Hirsch breaks through the ring of fire and captures his Muse. The voice is now uncannily his own uncanny because we believe we have heard it before, yet the accents are unearthly and utterly fresh. Like his poem on Art Pepper, this voice also hears the chords of Stevens and Celan, but knows that ‘play solo means going on alone, improvising.’”
—Harold Bloom

“Edward Hirsch is one of the finest poets we have! He has wonderful gifts to offer us: a strong, touching narrative voice alert, mindful eye the moral energy that informs his manner of writing and his choice of subjects a desire to reach his readers, bring them into the world he observes, creates.”
—Robert Coles

“I can’t think of any contemporary whose poems have such an unfeigned urgency of feeling. At the same time, Hirsch’s poems have a considered richness in them, and greatly repay rereading.”
—Richard Wilbur

The Night Parade: Poems
ISBN: 0679722998

Knopf. 2003

"Edward Hirsch's gifts include an emotional richness coupled with a precise sense of language and metaphor, which makes his best poems wonderful to read."
—Stephen Dobyns, New York Times Book Review

"Hirsch possesses an uncanny vividness of memory springing, it seems, from an infinite fund of affection and sadness...There is a wonderful simplicity and clarity in the best of these poems."
—Liz Rosenberg, Philadelphia Inquirer

Straightforward and precise, these poems...beckon the reader with their immediacy...With humility and passion, Hirsch illuminates the contradictory resilience and weakness of the human spirit."
Publishers Weekly

For the Sleepwalkers (Carnegie Mellon Classic Contemporary Series: Poetry)
ISBN: 0887482511

Carnegie Mellon University Press. 1998

A reissuing of For the Sleepwalkers, poems by Edward Hirsch.

How to Read a Poem: And Fall in Love with Poetry
ISBN: 0151004196

Harcourt. 1999

Read a poem to yourself in the middle of the night. Turn on a single lamp and read it while you're alone in an otherwise dark room or while someone sleeps next to you. Say it over to yourself in a place where silence reigns and the din of culture-the constant buzzing noise that surrounds you-has momentarily stopped. This poem has come from a great distance to find you." So begins this astonishing book by one of our leading poets and critics. In an unprecedented exploration of the genre, Hirsch writes about what poetry is, why it matters, and how we can open up our imaginations so that its message-which is of vital importance in day-to-day life-can reach us and make a difference. For Hirsch, poetry is not just a part of life, it is life, and expresses like no other art our most sublime emotions. In a marvelous reading of world poetry, including verse by such poets as Wallace Stevens, Elizabeth Bishop, Pablo Neruda, William Wordsworth, Sylvia Plath, Charles Baudelaire, and many more, Hirsch discovers the meaning of their words and ideas and brings their sublime message home into our hearts. A masterful work by a master poet, this brilliant summation of poetry and human nature will speak to all readers who long to place poetry in their lives but don't know how to read it.

Responsive Reading (Poets On Poetry)
ISBN: 0472066927

University of Michigan Press. 1999

This collection brims with wide-ranging encounters and explorations, fundamental discoveries, and reconsiderations. It is a book of deep, attentive, and appreciative readings. In Responsive Reading, reading itself is treated as a creative act, an intimate, triggering, and momentous activity.
The collection begins with a reconsideration of the "J" author, the most ancient and humanly oriented writer in the Hebrew Bible, and concludes with a memoir of the author's grandfather, whose poems (which have not survived) he has tried to envision. There is an investigation of Dante's Inferno and of a biography of Emerson. There are pieces on the Polish poets Zbigniew Herbert, Alexsander Wat, and Wislawa Szymborska, and on the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai on Derek Walcott and on the sullen majesty of Philip Larkin. There are also pieces that follow Federico Garcia Lorca and Joseph Cornell (via Charles Simic) on forays into New York City. An award-winning essay, "The Imaginary Irish Peasant," tracks a company of Irish writers into the countryside, both a real and an imagined place, a symbol-laden territory. Indeed, all these pieces testify to a poet's sublime experience of reading.
Edward Hirsch is author of On Love, Earthly Measures, The Night Parade, Wild Gratitude, and For the Sleepwalkers. His prizes include an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Lyndhurst Prize, the William Riley Parker Prize from the Modern Language Association, the National Book Critics Award, and the Rome Prize. He is poetry editor for Doubletake magazine and teaches in the creative writing program at the University of Houston.

Demon and the Angel: Searching for the Source of Artistic Inspiration
ISBN: 0613618459

San Val. 2003

The Night Parade: Poems
ISBN: 0679722998

Knopf. 2003

"Edward Hirsch's gifts include an emotional richness coupled with a precise sense of language and metaphor, which makes his best poems wonderful to read."
—Stephen Dobyns, New York Times Book Review

"Hirsch possesses an uncanny vividness of memory springing, it seems, from an infinite fund of affection and sadness...There is a wonderful simplicity and clarity in the best of these poems."
—Liz Rosenberg, Philadelphia Inquirer

Straightforward and precise, these poems...beckon the reader with their immediacy...With humility and passion, Hirsch illuminates the contradictory resilience and weakness of the human spirit."
Publishers Weekly

Lay Back the Darkness: Poems
ISBN: 0375415211

Knopf. 2003

Edward Hirsch’s sixth collection is a descent into the darkness of middle age, narrated with exacting tenderness. He explores the boundaries of human fallibility both in candid personal poems, such as the title piece—a plea for his father, a victim of Alzheimer’s wandering the hallway at night—and in his passionate encounters with classic poetic texts, as when Dante’s Inferno enters his bedroom:

When you read Canto Five aloud last night
in your naked, singsong, fractured Italian,
my sweet compulsion, my carnal appetite,
I suspected we shall never be forgiven
for devouring each other body and soul . . .

From the lighting of a Yahrzeit candle to the drawings by the children of Terezin, Hirsch longs for transcendence in art and in the troubled history of his faith. In “The Hades Sonnets,” the ravishing series that crowns the collection, the poet awakens full of grief in his wife’s arms, but here as throughout, there is a luminous forgiveness in his examination of our sorrows. Taken together, these poems offer a profound engagement with our need to capture what is passing (and past) in the incandescence of language.

Wild Gratitude
ISBN: 0375710124

Knopf. 2003

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry, 1986

“This is a lovely and moving collection, and it has not only the courage of its strong emotions, but the language and form that makes and keeps them clear and true.”
—Anthony Hecht

“Hirsch remains a poet of celebration, but the sorrows of the world are here too, in equal measure. The language is, throughout, simple, sensuous, and direct. We can be grateful for this book and this poet.”
—Jay Parini

“I have known the poetry of Edward Hirsch for some time, and have greatly admired it. But I even more greatly admire his Wild Gratitude as a general collection, and I am convinced that the best poems here are unsurpassed in our time.”
—Robert Penn Warren

Poet's Choice
ISBN: 015101356X

Harcourt. 2006

Edward Hirsch began writing a column in the Washington Post Book World called "Poet's Choice" in 2002. This book brings together those enormously popular columns, some of which have been revised and expanded, to present a minicourse in world poetry Poet's Choice includes the work of more than 130 poets-from Asia and the Middle East to Europe and America, from ancient times to the present-and demonstrates how poetry responds to the challenges of our modern world. Rich, relevant, and inviting, the book reveals how poetry both puts us in touch with ourselves and connects us to each other.

I don't want to go on being a root in the dark,
Insecure, stretched out, shivering with sleep,
Going on down, into the moist guts of the earth,
Taking in and thinking, eating every day.

I don't want so much misery.
I don't want to go on as a root and a tomb,
Alone under the ground, a warehouse with corpses,
Half frozen, dying of grief.
translated by ROBERT BLY

To a Nightingale: Sonnets and Poems from Sappho to Borges
ISBN: 0807615870

George Braziller. 2007

Uniting the voices of thirty master poets, To a Nightingale traces the presence of literature's most celebrated bird from Sappho's fragments to the verse of Borges.

The collection reveals a time-honored, poetic discussion of grief, solitude, beauty, song, and artistic expression—a discussion that moved history's greatest literary minds to create their greatest works.

As Keats writes in his famous ode: "Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird...The voice I hear this passing night was heard in ancient days." His sentiment resounds throughout this book, echoing through the words of Milton, Shakespeare, Virgil, and other luminaries whose work directed the course of world literature. Bound by a common reverence for the nightingale's unchanging music, each author seems to speak intimately to the other, their sentiments resonating beautifully despite the passage of centuries.

To a Nightingale is a powerful homage that inspires appreciation not only for the nightingale herself, but also for the poets who collectively made her song sacred to us. This book will appeal to anyone seeking a glimpse into the world of celebrated poetry.

Special Orders: Poems
ISBN: 0307266818

Knopf. 2008

In Special Orders, the renowned poet Edward Hirsch brings us a new series of tightly crafted poems, work that demonstrates a thrilling expansion of his tone and subject matter. It is with a mixture of grief and joy that Hirsch examines what he calls “the minor triumphs, the major failures” of his life so far, in lines that reveal a startling frankness in the man composing them, a fearlessness in confronting his own internal divisions: “I lived between my heart and my head, / like a married couple who can’t get along,” he writes in “Self-portrait.” These poems constitute a profound, sometimes painful self-examination, by the end of which the poet marvels at the sense of expectancy and transformation he feels. His fifteen-year-old son walking on Broadway is a fledgling about to sail out over the treetops he has a new love, passionately described in “I Wish I Could Paint You” he is ready to live, he tells us, “solitary, bittersweet, and utterly free.”
More personal than any of his previous collections, Special Orders is Edward Hirsch’s most significant book to date.

The highway signs pointed to our happiness
the greasy spoons and gleaming truck stops
were the stations of our pilgrimage.

Wasn’t that us staggering past the riverboats,
eating homemade fudge at the county fair
and devouring each other’s body?

They come back to me now, delicious love,
the times my sad heart knew a little sweetness.

from “The Sweetness”

The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems
ISBN: 037541522X

Knopf. 2010

A rich and significant collection of more than one hundred poems, drawn from a lifetime of “wild gratitude” in poetry.

In poems chronicling insomnia (“the blue-rimmed edge / of outer dark, those crossroads / where we meet the dead”), art and culture (poems on Edward Hopper and Paul Celan, love poems in the voices of Baudelaire and Gertrude Stein, a meditation on two suitcases of children’s drawings that came out of the Terezin concentration camp), and his own experience, including the powerful, frank self-examinations in his more recent work, Edward Hirsch displays stunning range and quality. Repeatedly confronting the darkness, his own sense of godlessness (“Forgive me, faith, for never having any”), he also struggles with the unlikely presence of the divine, the power of art to redeem human transience, and the complexity of relationships. Throughout the collection, his own life trajectory enriches the poems he is the “skinny, long-beaked boy / who perched in the branches of the old branch library,” as well as the passionate middle-aged man who tells his lover, “I wish I could paint you— / . . . / I need a brush for your hard angles / and ferocious blues and reds. / . . . / I wish I could paint you / from the waist down.”

Grieving for the losses occasioned by our mortality, Hirsch’s ultimate impulse as a poet is to praise—to wreathe himself, as he writes, in “the living fire” that burns with a ferocious intensity.


Pablo Neruda Presidential Medal of Honor, Embassy of Chile, Office of the Ambassador, 2004

MacArthur Fellowship (1998-2002)

several others

Speaking Engagements

Speaking Engagement Availability (Yes)