23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023

Edward Hirsch

Edward Hirsch was born in Chicago in 1950.  At the age of eight he discovered, in his family’s library, poems such as »Spellbound« by Emily Brontë and »The Lost Son« by Theodore Roethke – this literary initiation led to a lifelong and enthusiastic engagement with the art of poetry. Hirsch studied at the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed his doctorate in Folklore.  For his first volume of poetry, »For the Sleepwalkers« (1981), he received the Lavan Younger Poets Award and the Delmore Schwartz Memorial Award.  The following work, »Wild Gratitude« (1986), was awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award.  Hirsch’s poems, which bridge the world of personal experience and metaphysics, are inspired by his encounter with classic and contemporary world-poetry.  They attempt to carry on a dialogue: »I like to think of art as a connection between two people who don’t know each other, who aren’t physically present to each other, and yet who are able to connect and find this bond through the vehicle of the poem«. Hirsch’s meticulously composed volumes of poetry are characterized just as much by his superior handling of diverse forms, as by the flow of unpretentious elegance.  »Earthly Measures« (1994), lyric meditations on the divine in everyday life, was included by Harold Bloom in his book »Western Canon«.  »On Love« (1998) conveys the diverse facets of love and flows into a sequence of poems, which speak with the voices of writers such as Diderot, Heine, Baudelaire, Emerson, Gertrude Stein, García Lorca, Brecht and Colette.  His most recent volume of poetry, »Lay Back the Darkness« (2003), broaches the themes of death and the underworld – against the backdrop of Dante’s Inferno, the Odyssey, the Myth of Orpheus, the events in the Concentration Camp Terezin, and autobiographical experiences.

Hirsch also wrote theoretic – however non-academic and heartfelt – books, among which »How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry« (1999) became a bestseller in the USA. As an enthusiastic ambassador of the art of poetry, he also made an impact with his weekly column »Poet’s Choice« in the Washington Post Book World. He published essays in publications such as »The New Yorker«, »The New York Times Book Review«, »American Poetry Review«, and »DoubleTake«, where he worked as poetry Editor.  The recipient of numerous renowned prizes, grants and academic honours, Hirsch also taught at Wayne State University, and was Professor of English and Creative Writing for 18 years at the University of Houston.  Additionally, he belonged to the selection committee of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation, for which he has served as its fourth president since 2003.

© international literature festival berlin


Earthly Measures
Alfred A. Knopf
New York, 1994

On Love
Alfred A. Knopf
New York, 1998

For the Sleepwalkers
Carnegie Mellon University Press
Pittsburgh, 1998

How to Read a Poem and Fall in Love with Poetry
Harvest Books
Fort Washington, 2000

Wild Gratitude
Alfred A. Knopf
New York, 2003

The Demon and the Angel
Harvest Books
Fort Washington, 2003

The Night Parade
Alfred A. Knopf
New York, 2003

Lay Back the Darkness
Alfred A. Knopf
New York, 2004

Poet’s Choice
Orlando, 2006

Übersetzer: Rainer G. Schmidt