Poems in Conversation

andrea blancas beltran

Conversation Piece by Juan Munoz (1999)
I’ve been devouring Jane Hirshfield’s Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry. Her chapter on translation is insightful and the poems she’s selected as examples are moving, especially this one:

Lying alone,

my black hair tangled,


I long for the one

who touched it first.

– Izumi Shikibu, translated by Jane Hirshfield and Mariko Aratani

Hirshfield writes, “Japanese critics have long pointed out that Shikibu’s tangled black hair is one of very few references to the details of physical life in all Japanese poetry.” Reading Shikibu’s poem made me think of Jack Gilbert’s poem “Married,” one of many poems in The Great Fires that made me realize I couldn’t live without poetry:


I came back from the funeral and crawled

around the apartment, crying hard,

searching for my wife’s hair.

For two months got them from the drain,

from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,

and off…

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