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Poem: A Ream of Paper

From our poet of the month: Jane Hirshfield

Illustration of woman with deer and apple

Getty Images/nizha2

“It may be that poetry’s work is preparatory, like the work of the earthworms in garden soil.”

I have a ream of paper,
a cartridge of ink,

almonds, 
coffee,
a wool scarf for warmth.

Whatever handcuffs the soul, 
I have brought here.

Whatever distances the heart, 
I have brought here.

A deer rises onto her haunches 
to reach for an apple,

though many fallen apples are on the ground.

Excerpted from Ledger by Jane Hirshfield. Copyright © 2020 by Jane Hirshfield. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Listen to Jane Hirshfield read “A Ream of Paper”:

Jane Hirshfield shared her insight with S&H:

“Permeability of being is built into how poems work. To understand the word beetle, or apple, or deer, we become, for a moment, beetle, apple... become the tree and the deer reaching into its branches.

It may be that poetry’s work is preparatory, like the work of the earthworms in garden soil: its own completion but also a tilling, a making of lightened, turned ground that supports further life. One earthworm may not make much of a difference; but the existence of earthworms, microbes, and the innumerable other unnamed, uncounted beings, is indispensable to the survival of a larger wholeness. So it is with our words. I write poems, one at a time, that speak, I hope, into my bewilderment and my griefs, but also of this world’s opulence, connection, abundance, amazement, surprise.”

Read more from Jane Hirshfield: the poems “Practice and “Falcon.”


About the Author

Jane Hirshfield

Jane Hirshfield is the author of nine books of poetry and has edited and co-translated four books presenting the work of world poets from the past. Her books have received the Poetry Center Book Award, the California Book Award, and the Donald Hal-Jane Kenyon Prize in American Poetry. Her poems appear in a wide range of outlets. A resident of Northern California, she is a chancellor emerita of the Academy of American Poets.

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