Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on Poet's Choice.
In response to the tragedy of September 11, 2001, poet Edward Hirsch began writing a weekly column called "Poet's Choice," which appeared in The Washington Post Book World. As he explains, he felt it "especially relevant to a post-9/11 world, a world characterized by disaffection and materialism, a world alienated from art." Hirsch, who is the author of six books of poems and three books of prose, wrote this immensely popular column until 2006, when he turned it over to former U.S. poet laureate Robert Pinsky.
Poet's Choice is a compilation of these columns, some of which Hirsch expanded. In Part I, he introduces readers to works by poets in the international community, in the Part II by American poets. They range in time from works by ancient Greek and Roman writers to twenty-first century Asian American poets. While these poets hail from many cultures, the overarching themes expressed in their verse are universal: the search for meaning when faced with death, suffering, and loss.
Anyone can create a compilation of favorite verses, and I have done just that. Like my list, Hirsch's collection reflects its author's preferences. Yet I had hoped to read more about works by women, for only roughly one-tenth of the pieces deal in some way with women poets.
"Poetry is a means of exchange, a form of reciprocity, a magic to be shared, a gift," writes Hirsch. "There has never been a civilization without it." To come alive, poetry needs readers, and readers need poetry to live fully within the human community. As he did in the best-selling How to Read a Poem, Hirsch makes us better people by introducing us to poets and works that may be new to us. These short columns are like hors d'oeuvres: compact and delicious, they whetted my appetite to read more by poets known and unknown to me.