Jane Hirshfield was born in New York City on February 24, 1953. A poet, translator, essayist, and editor, she received her BA from Princeton University in its first graduating class to include women, and went on to study at the San Francisco Zen Center.
Hirshfield’s books of poetry include The Asking: New & Selected Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2023); Ledger (Alfred A. Knopf, 2020); The Beauty: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015), which was long-listed for the National Book Award; and Given Sugar, Given Salt (HarperCollins, 2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award.
Hirshfield is also the author of Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World (Alfred A. Knopf, 2015); Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (HarperCollins, 1997); and an e-book on Matsuo Bashō, titled The Heart of Haiku (2011). She has also edited and co-translated books with Mariko Aratani and Robert Bly.
About her work, the poet Rosanna Warren has said:
Hirshfield has elaborated a sensuously philosophical art that imposes a pause in our fast-forward habits of mind. Her poems appear simple, and are not. Her language, in its cleanliness and transparency, poses riddles of a quietly metaphysical nature.... Clause by clause, image by image, in language at once mysterious and commonplace, Hirshfield’s poems clear a space for reflection and change. They invite ethical awareness, and establish a delicate balance.
Poet Kay Ryan has praised Jane Hirshfield, saying,
She is that rare thing in contemporary American life, a true person of letters—an eloquent and exacting poet, first, but in addition the author of enduring essays and influential translations and anthologies. Now add to this a life on the hustings, bringing the good news about poetry to nearly every state of the union. Then further add her elegant ambassadorship for poetry in the greater world (think Japan, Poland, China) and you have something that satisfies the old sense of a person of letters—a writer who demonstrates in every possible way that this life matters.
Hirshfield’s honors include the Poetry Center Book Award, the Donald Hall-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Literature, the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award, Columbia University’s Translation Center Award, and the Commonwealth Club of California Poetry Medal, as well as fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Rockefeller Foundation. Her work has been selected for ten editions of Best American Poetry and, in 2004, Hirshfield was awarded the seventieth Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by the Academy of American Poets. In 2019, she was elected to the American Academy of Arts & Sciences.
In addition to her work as a freelance writer, editor, and translator, Hirshfield has taught at Stanford University, the University of California, Berkeley, in the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars, and at the University of San Francisco. She was the third Seamus Heaney International Visiting Poet at Queen’s University, Belfast, as well as poet in residence at the University of California in San Francisco, Duke University, the University of Alaska, the University of Virginia, and elsewhere, as well as being appointed the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati. In 2017, Hirshfield founded a traveling interactive installation, Poets For Science, in conjunction with the March for Science in Washington, D.C., which has gone to universities, research institutes, and conferences around the United States. She served as a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets from 2012 to 2017 and as the Guest Editor for Poem-a-Day in April 2021 (National Poetry Month).
Hirshfield lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.