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  • Gabriel
  • Written by Edward Hirsch
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  • Written by Edward Hirsch
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A Poem

Written by Edward HirschAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Edward Hirsch


List Price: $13.99


On Sale: September 02, 2014
Pages: 96 | ISBN: 978-0-385-35358-8
Published by : Knopf Knopf
Gabriel Cover

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Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award

Never has there been a book of poems quite like Gabriel, in which a short life, a bewildering death, and the unanswerable sorrow of a father come together in such 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. His landmark poem 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. It will be read and reread.


The population of his feelings
Could not be governed
By the authorities

He had reasons why
Reason disobeyed him
And voted him out of office

His constant companion
Made it difficult to rest

Unruly party of one
Forget about truces or compromises
The barricades will be stormed

Every day was an emergency
Every day called for another emergency
Meeting of the cabinet

In his country
There were scenes
Of spectacular carnage

Hurricanes welcomed him
He adored typhoons and tornadoes
Furies unleashed

Houses lifted up
And carried to the sea
Uncontained uncontainable

Unbolt the doors
Fling open the gates
Here he comes

Chaotic wind of the gods
He was trouble
But he was our trouble
Edward Hirsch

About Edward Hirsch

Edward Hirsch - Gabriel

Photo © Michael Lionstar

Edward Hirsch has published eight books of poetry and five books of prose. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.  

Edward Hirsch is represented by Random House Speakers Bureau (www.rhspeakers.com).


"Hirsch's lightening-lit portrait of and surging lament for his hurricane of a son is a courageous, generous, and reverberating epic of fatherly love and mourning."--Donna Seaman, Booklist, starred reivew

"Embedded within Gabriel is a picaresque novella about a tempestuous boy and young man, a part Hirsch calls 'the adventures of Gabriel...' [The poet] Eavan Boland described Gabriel as 'a masterpiece of sorrow. . . the creation of the loved and lost boy is one of the poem's most important effects.'"--Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker

Unpunctuated, unrhymed triplets serve Hirsch’s grief and tell his story well. . . a near-unforgettable book-length verse memoir describing the life and death, the rambunctious childhood, the adventurous youth, the funeral, and the enduring memory, of the poet’s only son."--Publishers Weekly

"Gabriel resists sentimentality at every line break, though it is the most heartfelt poem I have read."--Tim Adams, The Observer
“Gabriel is an exquisite document of loss.”--Michael Andor Brodeur, Boston Globe

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