The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems

Drawing from thirty-five years of Hirsch's work, across seven poetry collections, The Living Fire moves through themes of identity, childhood, desire, and absence. The poems carry an undercurrent of hope in even the darkest moments. In that light, perhaps, Hirsch's newest poems begin the collection. The newest work is that of tribute and memory; Hirsch addresses lost love, past travels, and aging, applying worldly knowledge and a literary sensibility to these themes. In the short poem "Last Saturday," for instance, a sense of existential foreboding colors a routine event, an exterminator's house call:

Then the doorbell rang suddenly,
like an alarm, on Saturday morning....

The sense of interruption which begins the poem instills gravity to the event. The poet's own fears reveal themselves in the second stanza:

but I never expected him to come
so early, without warning

This book review originally appeared in American Poets, fall 2010, issue 39.