Resilience poem, “Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield

More and more I have come to admire resilience.
Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
mitochondria, figs—all this resinous, unretractable earth.

Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield, from Given Sugar, Given Salt. © Harper Collins, 2002. (*Reprinted by permission. Note: the line breaks in the poem as printed above are correct. My appologies to all I may have led astray with the incorrect line breaks. And “Thanks!” to Jane Hirshfield for permission to use this poem.)

You can listen to Garrison Keiller read the poem at the February 24 archive of NPRs Writer’s Almanac, in honor of Jane Hirshfield’s birthday. Here is the direct link to the audio; the poem is at the end.

Thanks to friend and colleague David Markwardt for calling my attention to this poem.

Jane Hirshfield:” born in New York City (1953). When she was in first grade, she wrote, “I want to be a writer when I grow up.” She went to Princeton, worked on a farm for a year, and then spent the next few years studying Buddhism at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in northern California. She didn’t write at all while she was there, almost eight years, but since then she has published many books of poetry, including Of Gravity & Angels (1988), Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001),  After: Poems (2006)”, and more.

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2 Responses to Resilience poem, “Optimism” by Jane Hirshfield

  1. Jane Hirshfield says:

    I’m very happy to have my poem appear here–it is the perfect home for it, thank you. But a different website picked it up for reprint from here, and because the line breaks are quite unlike the original here, it became so there as well–and then someone picked it up from there and almost published it that way on a brass plaque on an Open Space “poetry trail”… From their request to me, I have traced this back to you, thus far. So I would like to give you the correct line-breaks, if I may. (Feel free to correct the original post and then erase this comment if you like.) Thank you– Jane

    Optimism

    More and more I have come to admire resilience.
    Not the simple resistance of a pillow, whose foam
    returns over and over to the same shape, but the sinuous
    tenacity of a tree: finding the light newly blocked on one side,
    it turns in another. A blind intelligence, true.
    But out of such persistence arose turtles, rivers,
    mitochondria, figs—all this resinous, unretractable earth.

    Jane Hirshfield

  2. Cheryl says:

    Beautiful images of resilience in nature! Here in Hawaii, I see the trees responding to the natural wind patterns and admire their persistence as they reach for the sun and mold to the force of the wind. Seeds sprouting in barren fields of lava, the profusion of flowers, the persistence of waterfalls, the full moon shining on the ocean. So much beauty. It dazzles my mind.

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