Saturday, November 03, 2007

POETRY | HIRSHFIELD | In Praise of Coldness

I was looking through some of my old Moleskine notebooks, and I came across one that I kept as a poetry journal. I had copied by hand, the poems that I found moving and inspiring. I have also included several entries for Patti Smith.

There were also a few poems by Jane Hirshfield - among them, "In Praise of Coldness", which quoted Chekhov. I re-read that poem, and now I couldn't let it go.


“If you wish to move your reader,”
Chehkov wrote, “you must write more coldly.”

Herakleitos recommended, “A dry soul is best.”

And so at the center of many great works
is found a preserving dispassion,
like the vanishing point of quattrocento perspective,
or the tiny packets of dessicant enclosed
in a box of new shoes or seeds.

But still the vanishing point
is not the painting,
the silica is not the blossoming plant.

Chekhov, dying, read the timetables of trains.
To what more earthly thing could he have been faithful?–
Scent of rocking distances,
smoke of blue trees out the window,
hampers of bread, pickled cabbage, boiled meat.

Scent of the knowable journey.

Neither a person entirely broken
nor one entirely whole can speak.

In sorrow, pretend to be fearless. In happiness, tremble.

~ Jane Hirshfield

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