beauty

Poet Jane Hirshfield on bearing witness to the beauty of an imperiled world

Q. Many of the poems in “Ledger” suggest a deep concern for the present environmental crisis, a situation whose urgency seems increasingly difficult to ignore. Recently your own state of California has been burning with fires of historic proportion.

A. This Sept. 9 was world-displacingly wrong. I have not recovered from it. The morning began dark red, then grew darker. Streetlights never turned off. The neighbor’s cat clung to my side, as unnerved as I was. It felt as if the veil of normality had been torn away — as if, that day, you were seeing the world as it actually is: This is what we have done to the planet. Climate change is no longer a future crisis. I’m breathing its smoke now, still, today. In 2016, I waded its sea rise, on Captiva Island in Florida. The recognition stops you, silences. And still, you have to find a

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