Gabriel: A Poem

Longlist, National Book Awards 2014 for Poetry

Gabriel: A Poem by Edward Hirsch
ISBN 9780385353571
Alfred A. Knopf/ Random House
Edward Hirsch
Edward Hirsch

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A short life, a bewildering death, and the unanswerable sorrow of a father come together in a sustained elegy. This unabashed sequence speaks directly from Hirsch’s heart to our own, without sentimentality. From its opening lines—“The funeral director opened the coffin / And there he was alone / From the waist up”—Hirsch’s account is poignantly direct and open to the strange vicissitudes and tricks of grief. In propulsive three-line stanzas, he tells the story of how a once unstoppable child, who suffered from various developmental disorders, turned into an irreverent young adult, funny, rebellious, impulsive. Hirsch mixes his tale of Gabriel with the stories of other poets through the centuries who have also lost children, and expresses his feelings through theirs. Gabriel enters the broad stream of human grief and raises in us the strange hope, even consolation, that we find in the writer’s act of witnessing and transformation.