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Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Why I Write: Jane Hirshfield

The National Writing Project asks poet and practicing Buddhist Jane Hirshfield, a perennial favorite due to the clarity and poignancy of her work, about why she writes. Here is her response:


Why do I write?

I write because to write a new sentence, let alone a new poem, is to cross the threshold into both a larger existence and a profound mystery. A thought was not there, then it is. An image, a story, an idea about what it is to be human, did not exist, then it does. With every new poem, an emotion new to the heart, to the world, speaks itself into being. Any new metaphor is a telescope, a canoe in rapids, an MRI machine. And like that MRI machine, sometimes its looking is accompanied by an awful banging. To write can be frightening as well as magnetic. You don't know what will happen when you throw open your windows and doors.

Why write? You might as well ask a fish, why swim, ask an apple tree, why make apples? The eye wants to look, the ear wants to hear, the heart wants to feel more than it thought it could bear...

The writer, when she or he cannot write, is a person outside the gates of her own being. Not long ago, I stood like that for months, disbarred from myself. Then, one sentence arrived; another. And I? I was a woman in love. For that also is what writing is. Every sentence that comes for a writer when actually writing—however imperfect, however inadequate—every sentence is a love poem to this world and to our good luck at being here, alive, in it.


To read responses from other writers to this same query, including Timothy Ferris (science writer), Pam Houston (novelist), Joan Didion (essayist), Terry Tempest Williams (nature writer), and Reginald Shepherd (poet) among many others, go to this link and scroll midway down the page.

And yes, I do realize I am probably preaching to the choir here.


Mari said...

Preach to the choir, Jessica! I, for one, needed this good shot of wisdom from JH. Thanks for posting...

Jessica Goodfellow said...

Yes, I love JH too. Joan Didion's "Why I Write" (available at this website as well as in Slouching Towards Bethlehem) is great reading too.

Jessica Goodfellow said...
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