American poet, essayist, and translator Jane Hirshfield was born on 24th February, 1953 in New York.
Hirshfield published her first poem in 1973, shortly after graduating from Princeton as a member of the university’s first graduating class to include women. She put aside her writing for nearly eight years, however, to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. “I felt that I’d never make much of a poet if I didn’t know more than I knew at that time about what it means to be a human being,” Hirshfield once said. “I don’t think poetry is based just on poetry; it is based on a thoroughly lived life. And so I couldn’t just decide I was going to write no matter what; I first had to find out what it means to live.”
Hirshfield’s poetry reflects her immersion in a wide range of poetic traditions, both Asian and Western, interests found also in the essays of Nine Gates. Polish, Scandinavian, and Eastern European poets have been particularly important to her, along with the poetry of Japan and China. Zbigniew Herbert’s poem, “Pebble” was an influence on Hirshfield’s small studies, also called pebbles, included in After and Come, Thief.
Hirshfield’s work consistently explores themes of social justice and environmental awareness, specifically the belief that natural world and human world are inextricably linked. Mark A. Eaton noted in The Dictionary of Literary Biography that “Hirshfield’s work recognizes the full breadth and responsibilities of humans’ transactions with the earth, not just the intimacies.” In a review of her seventh collection,Come, Thief, Afaa M. Weaver wrote that her poems “find a middle ground between the larger landscape of political conflict and the personal landscape of our need to connect with one another.”