100 Poems to Break Your Heart
100 of the most moving and inspiring poems of the last 200 years from around the world, a collection that will comfort and enthrall anyone trapped by grief or loneliness, selected by Edward Hirsch, the award-winning, best-selling, and beloved author of How to Read a Poem.
Implicit in poetry is the idea that we are deepened by heartbreaks, by the recognition and understanding of suffering—not just our own suffering but also the pain of others. We are not so much diminished as enlarged by grief, by our refusal to vanish, or to let others vanish, without leaving a record. And poets are people who are determined to leave a trace in words, to transform oceanic depths of feeling into art that speaks to others.
In 100 Poems to Break Your Heart, poet and advocate Edward Hirsch selects 100 poems, from the 19th century to the present, and illuminates them, unpacking context and references to help the reader fully experience the depth of emotion and wisdom within these poems.
For anyone trying to process grief, loneliness, or fear, this collection of poetry will be your guide in trying times.
*Starred Review* 100 Poems to Break Your Heart.
First published February 1, 2021 (Booklist).
Who will reach for this assemblage of poems meant to break our hearts? Those who know that solace can be found in poetry and its assurance that one is not alone in facing heartbreak and loss, which is visited upon us in new and crushing ways in the time of COVID-19. Another draw is Hirsch himself, of course, a consummate poet (his most recent collection is Stranger by Night, 2020) all-too fluent in grief, whose radiant books about poetry, among them Poet’s Choice (2006), have guided readers to a deeper appreciation for this endlessly surprising and affecting literary form. Each profoundly arresting poem is accompanied by a succinct yet passionate essay masterfully combining biography and commentary. Hirsch has selected lyrics confronting sorrow engendered by the death of a loved one, war, genocide, exile, violence, racism, and other crimes against humanity. Proceeding chronologically from the late nineteenth century to the present and encompassing translated works, Hirsch’s darkly illuminating anthology includes Anna Ahkmatova, Gwendolyn Brooks, Nazim Hikmet, Garret Hongo, Yusef Komunyakaa, Philip Levine, Czesław Miłosz, Adrienne Rich, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, and César Vallejo. Mary Oliver crystallizes Hirsch’s vision and mission: “I tell you this / to break your heart, / by which I mean only / that it break open and never close again / to the rest of the world.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist