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Women in Praise of the Sacredby Jane Hirshfield
Synopses & Reviews
Enheduanna is the earliest identified author of either sex in world literature. Daughter of the Sumerian king Sargon (whose domain lay in what is now southern Iraq), she was a high priestess in the service of the moon-god and moon-goddess, Nanna and Inanna. A number of Enheduanna's hymns have survived on cuneiform-inscribed table is, and her portrait was found on a limestone disc during excavations of the city of Ur.
The Nin-me-sar-ra, excerpted here, tells the story of a time of political unrest when Enheduanna was cast into exile. Although the priestess appealed first to the god Nanna for help, it was his daughter Inanna who ultimately restored her to her fightful position; while other material about Inanna (see pages 8-10) depicts a goddess of eros and fertility, this hymn praises the moon-goddess primarily for the fierceness that accompanies her power and beauty. The hymn is believed to describe a shift in Inanna's rank to a higher position within the Sumerian pantheon, as well as a shift in power relations between human rulers. It is also the sole representation in this book of the fierce female energy found in spiritual traditions throughout the world. In figures ranging from the Hindu destroyer-goddess Kali to the Hawaiian Pele, we see how this destructive goddess-energy creates a necessary balance--for if the entrance to life is through the maternal feminine, the gates of death (dependent on prior earthly existence) must also he an aspect of engendering female power. There can be no genuine beauty or harmony that does not acknowledge the opposite powers of anger, fierceness, and destruction, the plot of this hymn tells us: a true spiritualityincludes all of life's aspects, not only those we find pleasing or simple.""from"The Hymn to Inanna
Lady of all powers,
Like a dragon,
In the forefront
It was in your service
What once was chanted of Nanna,
0 my Lady,
"Hirshfield's current collection brings together . . . an astonishing array of women writers from the 22nd century BC poet Enheduanna to Nelly Sachs and Anna Akhmatova."--Library Journal
This beautiful collection of poems, prayers and songs is by women throughout history, from a wide variety of religious traditions. Biographies and insightful commentary by Hirshfield accompany the poems and illuminate their historical contexts and meanings.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 243-250) and index.
About the Author
Jane Hirshfield is the author of five previous books of poetry, a collection of essays, Nine Gates: Entering the Mind of Poetry, and three books collecting the work of women writers from the past. Her honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim and Rockefeller foundations, the Academy of American Poets, and the NEA, as well as the Poetry Center Book Award and California Book Award. Her last book, Given Sugar, Given Salt, was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle and winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Award.
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