edward hirsch

And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.
—  Edward Hirsch, “Fall”
Implicit in poetry is the notion that we are deepened by heartbreaks, that we are not so much diminished as enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish — to let others vanish — without leaving a verbal record. Poetry is a stubborn art.
—  Edward Hirsch

dead metaphor A metaphor that has supposedly been used so often that it has lost its capacity to describe one thing in terms of another, and no longer operates as a metaphor. Do we think of the heart when we say that this definition strikes the heart of the matter. The question of whether or not a dead metaphor is still a metaphor has been debated in recent years. Metaphors may not be surprising –I'm skating on thin ice here–but they can still work as metaphors. Zoltán Kövecses explains: “The ‘dead metaphor’ account misses an important point… . The metaphors … may be highly conventionally and effortlessly used, but this does not mean that they have lost their vigor in thought and that they are dead. On the contrary, they are 'alive’ in the most important sense–they govern our thought–they are 'metaphors we live by.’” Some poets, such as Samuel Johnson in “The Vanity of Human Wishes” (1749), make a point of invigorating dead metaphors. Giambattista Vico contended in The New Science (1725) that all language begins with metaphor and that the first metaphors were drawn from the human body. A great deal of what we think of as literal speech consists of dead metaphors, as when we say “the mouth of a river,” “veins of minerals,” “murmuring waves,” “weeping willows,” “the bowels of the earth,” and “smiling skies.” We speak the vestiges of ancient metaphorical language.

— A Poet’s Glossary by Edward Hirsch

See also: cliché, convention, metaphor, personification

I don’t believe that only sorrow
and misery can be written.
Happiness, too, can be precise:
Doctor, there’s a keen throbbing
on the left side of my chest
where my ribs are wrenched by joy.
Wings flutter in my shoulders
and blood courses through my body
like waves cresting on a choppy sea.
Look: the eyes blur with tears
and the tears clear.
My head is like skylight.
My heart is like dawn.
—  Edward Hirsch, “Happiness Writes White”

We couldn’t tell if if was a fire in the hills
Or the hills themselves on fire, smoky yet
Incandescent, too far away to comprehend.
And all this time we were traveling toward
Something vaguely burning in the distance—
A shadow on the horizon, a fault line—
A blue and cloudy peak which never seemed
To recede or get closer as we approached.
And that was all we knew about it
As we stood by the window in a waning light
Or touched and moved away from each other
And turned back to our books. But it remained
Even so, like the thought of a coal fading
On the upper left-hand side of our chests,
A destination that we bore within ourselves.
And there were those—were they the lucky ones?—
Who were unaware of rushing toward it.
And the blaze awaited them, too.

Edward Hirsch, “Uncertainty,” Earthly Measures: Poems (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994)

And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.
—  Edward Hirsch