I really enjoyed this book of essays by Jane Hirshfield called Nine Gates, Entering the Mind of Poetry. But I was predisposed to like it because the floating spirituality and humor of Zen Buddhism appeals to me.
This book is a dense, philosophical meditation and is difficult in its own way. I would not recommend it to beginners.
Hirshfield's studies more advanced topics of poetry, such as the nature of attention and concentration (an essay I found hard to concentrate on), a detailed study of her own translations of Japanese poets, what originality really means. She discusses economy, quietness, writing as experiencing, words as probes, the poet as a complicated being, the life of words on paper and via sound, the spiritual path of the writer.
Some concise balanced summaries on the history and trends of modernism and post-modernism can be found in various places as well as mediations on the tensions between formalists and conceptualists.
Her study on the issues of translations was particularly interesting. She studies the cultural gaps between Japanese and American poetics and her strategies to cover those gaps.
My job as a consultant to ICANN is to help post translated materials to their web site in various languages. As I was reading Hirshfields chapter on translation, this ICANN video was published about how difficult (but absolutely necessary) translation work can be. ICANN is a good example of translation's necessity. As decisions about Internet functionality and governance are made, stakeholders from around the world need to have access to understanding how those decisions are being made.
If only readers could see themselves as "stakeholders" in both social and spiritual world events and see poems as "documents" providing valuable information, as important as a statement of intent, action plan, treaty or memorandum of understanding.