Stranger by Night

  • Audio
  • Interview
  • Poem

Publishers Weekly

With this tender and unflinching 10th collection, Hirsch (Gabriel) balances heartfelt elegy with a celebration of the everyday. In these 48 poems of sensory remembrance, any door might open on the past: “Yesterday I climbed the stairs/ and took the ‘L’/ to 1965 /where I was stuck/ in the heart/ of downtown Chicago.” While offering tributes to Mark Strand, William Meredith, and Phillip Levine, Hirsch’s speakers are ready to “let someone else/ stumble past the mausoleum/ and grieve/ under the calm shade.” Hirsch is interested in capturing ephemeral flashes of human vitality with a lyricism that rises from unadorned eyewitness. Yet his reportage is often framed in ironic negation: “Don’t hitchhike/ the Mediterranean coast/ of Algeria/ in the summer of 1971/ with only a worn copy/ of The Plague to guide you.” In another poem, he remembers a chance encounter with a skyscraper window washer (“I felt oddly gleeful/ when I saw him later/ coming off the job safely/ in street clothes, walking on ground”). While later poems address Hirsch’s loss of eyesight, giving resonance to the collection’s title, readers will be grateful the poet’s inner eye remains as observant and compassionate as ever. (Feb.)


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