Adam Kirsch

Adam Kirsch is a poet and critic whose writing appears regularly in The New Yorker and other publications. He is the author of three previous collections of poetry and several books of criticism and biography, and has received a Guggenheim Fellowship. An editor at the Wall Street Journal, he has taught at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College. He was born in Los Angeles and now lives in New York City.

All Books

The Discarded Life

Adam Kirsch

Publication Date: May 31, 2022

$13.95 Tradepaper

ISBN: 9781636280158


A collection of moving and meditative poems that richly evoke a Gen X childhood in Los Angeles, exploring how our early recognitions shape our lives.

In these moving and meditative poems, Adam Kirsch shows how the experiences and recognitions of early life continue to shape us into adulthood. Richly evoking a 1980s childhood in Los Angeles, Kirsch uses Gen X landmarks—from Devo to Atari to the Challenger disaster—to tell a story of emotional and artistic coming of age, exploring universal questions of meaning, mortality, and how we become who we are.


‘“There is no I,” writes Adam Kirsch, “to be born or die.” His new collection takes the stuff of selfhood—memories, longings, disappointments—and gives them “a decent burial in words.” It is an autobiography, a farewell, and a reckoning, best illuminated by his own culminating image of a bonfire—or, perhaps, a funeral pyre—incinerating the fond vestiges of childhood and adolescence. Each act of disposal is an act of composition, and in these poems, Kirsch composes the years of his life into treasures.”
—Amit Majmudar, author of What He Did in Solitary

“Out of memory’s dreamlike whoosh, Adam Kirsch fixes scenes of his Californian boyhood in flowing blank verse, holding each cameo up to the light then setting it back down with “the reckless joy of getting rid.” Most moving are the child’s deep misgivings about a world he can only begin to know in fits and starts, the unnerving self-doubt that resolves itself into poetry. This is an artist’s coming-of-age for the ages. It took my breath away.”
—David Yezzi, author of Black Sea


Adam Kirsch talks ‘Dead Poets Soci­ety’ and Artis­tic Expression for the Jewish Book Council!

“The first crit­i­cal essay I ever wrote was about the movie Dead Poets Soci­ety, which came out when I was four­teen. I wasn’t yet writ­ing poet­ry myself, and I didn’t have any the­o­ries about why it should be read or taught. I just felt that the way the movie rep­re­sent­ed lit­er­a­ture need­ed to be refut­ed, like a lie or libel. I don’t remem­ber […]


Adam Kirsch’s THE DISCARDED LIFE reviewed in Literary Matters!

The evolution of blank verse from Milton to Wordsworth, via Cowper, was not solely a change in diction and subject matter. Even as classical and biblical themes were displaced by a sense of personal mythos—and even while plain speech triumphed over grammatical inversions—so, too, was there a recalibration of meter. At least as riveting as […]

New Criterion reviews THE DISCARDED LIFE by Adam Kirsch!

The Discarded Life: Poems, by Adam Kirsch (Red Hen): “Do details matter?” asks the poet Adam Kirsch in his new collection The Discarded Life—and even if they don’t, the perspicuity of these forty blank-verse poems is nothing short of staggering. Kirsch’s meditations on a childhood in 1980s Los Angeles, by turns wistful and detached, flit […]

LARB Reviews Adam Kirsch’s THE DISCARDED LIFE!

ADAM KIRSCH’S FOURTH BOOK of poetry, The Discarded Life, is an autobiography in blank verse, organized into 40 numbered parts, like cantos, each averaging a comfortable 26 or 27 lines, which, if given titles, could probably stand on their own as individual poems. In sequence, they offer a detailed, moving, and exquisitely readable chronological journey […]