Jane Hirshfield was born in New York City in 1953. After receiving her B.A. from Princeton University in their first graduating class to include women, she went on to study at the San Francisco Zen Center. Her books of poetry include Come, Thief (Alfred A. Knopf, 2011), After (HarperCollins, 2006); Given Sugar, Given Salt (2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Lives of the Heart (1997), The October Palace (1994), Of Gravity & Angels (1988), and Alaya (1982).
She is also the author of Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry (1997) and has also edited and co-translated The Ink Dark Moon: Poems by Ono no Komachi and Izumi Shikibu, Women of the Ancient Court of Japan (1990) with Mariko Aratani; Mirabai: Ecstatic Poems (2006) with Robert Bly; Women in Praise of the Sacred: Forty-Three Centuries of Spiritual Poetry by Women (1994); and an e-book on Basho, The Heart of Haiku (2011).
About her work, the poet Rosanna Warren has said:
Hirshfield has elaborated a sensuously philosophical art that imposes a pause in our fast-forward habits of mind. Her poems appear simple, and are not. Her language, in its cleanliness and transparency, poses riddles of a quietly metaphysical nature...Clause by clause, image by image, in language at once mysterious and commonplace, Hirshfield's poems clear a space for reflection and change. They invite ethical awareness, and establish a delicate balance.
Kay Ryan recently praised Jane Hirshfield, saying:
She is that rare thing in contemporary American life, a true person of letters—an eloquent and exacting poet, first, but in addition the author of enduring essays and influential translations and anthologies. Now add to this a life on the hustings, bringing the good news about poetry to nearly every state of the union. Then further add her elegant ambassadorship for poetry in the greater world (think Japan, Poland, China) and you have something that satisfies the old sense of a person of letters—a writer who demonstrates in every possible way that this life matters.
Her honors include The Poetry Center Book Award, fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, Columbia University's Translation Center Award, the Commonwealth Club of California Poetry Medal, and the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award. Her work has been selected for seven editions of Best American Poetry. In 2004, Hirshfield was awarded the 70th Academy Fellowship for distinguished poetic achievement by The Academy of American Poets.
In addition to her work as a freelance writer, editor, and translator, Hirshfield has taught in the Bennington MFA Writing Seminars, at UC Berkeley, and at the University of San Francisco. She has been a visiting Poet-in-Residence at Duke University, The University of Alaska, The University of Virginia and elsewhere, and has been the Elliston Visiting Poet at the University of Cincinnati. She was elected Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets in 2012.