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In Special Orders, the renowned poet Edward Hirsch brings us a new series of tightly crafted poems, work that demonstrates a thrilling expansion of his tone and subject matter. It is with a mixture of grief and joy that Hirsch examines what he calls “the minor triumphs, the major failures” of his life so far, in lines that reveal a startling frankness in the man composing them, a fearlessness in confronting his own internal divisions: “I lived between my heart and my head, / like a married couple who can’t get along,” he writes in “Self-portrait.” These poems constitute a profound, sometimes painful self-examination, by the end of which the poet marvels at the sense of expectancy and transformation he feels. His fifteen-year-old son walking on Broadway is a fledgling about to sail out over the treetops; he has a new love, passionately described in “I Wish I Could Paint You”; he is ready to live, he tells us, “solitary, bittersweet, and utterly free.”
More personal than any of his previous collections, Special Orders is Edward Hirsch’s most significant book to date.
The highway signs pointed to our happiness;
the greasy spoons and gleaming truck stops
were the stations of our pilgrimage.
Wasn’t that us staggering past the riverboats,
eating homemade fudge at the county fair
and devouring each other’s body?
They come back to me now, delicious love,
the times my sad heart knew a little sweetness.
from “The Sweetness”