Guernica Magazine

Back Draft: Edward Hirsch

The poet discusses insomnia, civility (or the lack thereof) in cities, and losing his sight. The post Back Draft: Edward Hirsch appeared first on Guernica.

Navigating the world isn’t always easy. Poets can’t help smooth the path, but they can—at the very least—shine a guiding light. Recipient of the MacArthur Genius award and countless honors from the academy, Edward Hirsch writes poems that illuminate the everyday dangers that await us. He often situates his speaker in treacherous circumstances, whether physically or ethically, and dares them to find their own way out.

When I chatted with Hirsch via cell phone, his thundering Chicago accent came through loud and clear. He explained why nighttime is most inspiring to poets, how he sees the relationship between interiority and political engagement, and what Russian and Polish poets have to teach us about “the quest for social justice.”

– Ben Purkert for Guernica

Guernica: What was the genesis of this poem?

Edward Hirsch: I was writing a group of short-line poems that were all one sentence long. And when I was writing these poems, I kept being attacked by memories. And the poems, the memories, were sort of flying at me and I was trying to write them down and figure out how to get them on the page.

And, at the same time, I’d lost my peripheral vision—I have an eye disease—and now my walks at night are suddenly much stranger than they used to be. And so, when I’m taking a simple walk, like Grand Central to Times Square—which I

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