Follow Your Passion! How to Live Your Life's Purpose
I grew up in a middle-class house without books, without art. No one around me wrote poetry or even read it. Even my teachers seemed indifferent to it. The sole literary presence from my childhood was my grandfather, a Jewish immigrant from Latvia, who eccentrically copied poems into the backs of his books. After he died, when I was 8 years old, my grandmother gave his books away, and his poems were lost. My family had always noted the strong physical resemblance between us, but after I began writing poems in high school, those lost poems also became part of my legacy, an incitement from the past. Even though I was on my own, I felt less lonely because I was carrying on something that my grandfather had almost willed to me. I wanted to live up to that inadvertent gift, to use it to make contact with others. I decided to become a poet.
How Edward began to pursue this passion
Those poets always companioned me, especially when I faced fierce opposition, sometimes from the people closest to me. My parents wanted their oldest son to become a doctor or a lawyer; being a poet was not on their radar. But I felt strongly that poetry was my life's purpose, and I was absolutely determined to live out that purpose. I am 60 years old now, and I have just published my new and selected poems, which brings together 35 years of work. I feel as powerfully as I ever did the true nobility of poetry, the urgency of trying to get something right in language, what it means to be a maker. I have tried to leave behind a record of my intensities, my exultations and despairs, my immersion in the living fire.
Read a poem from Edward's book The Living Fire
Edward Hirsch is a poet, teacher, literary critic and tireless advocate for poetry. He has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a MacArthur Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award. In 2008, he was elected a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets. In March 2010, Knopf released The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems, which brings together 35 years of Hirsch's poems. He is now the president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and lives in New York City.
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