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Refusing Heaven Paperback – March 13, 2007


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Refusing Heaven + The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; Reprint edition (March 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 037571085X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375710858
  • Product Dimensions: 5.9 x 0.3 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #226,610 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Jack Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh. He is the author of The Great Fires: Poems 1982—1992; Monolithos, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Views of Jeopardy, the 1962 winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize. He has also published a limited edition of elegiac poems under the title Kochan. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, Gilbert lives in Northampton, Massachusetts.


From the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

Without a doubt, this is one of the finest books of poetry I've ever read, maybe the finest.
Cat
The simple surface of his poetry here in Refusing Heaven reflects the very emotional quality in which we can experience his art.
J. Edgar Mihelic
Every morning she was asleep in my bed like a visitation, the gentleness in her like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
J. Tarwood

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

187 of 196 people found the following review helpful By J. Tarwood on May 10, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Gilbert is not a workshop poet, let alone politically correct in any way. He writes to live and not to get tenure. He's overlooked these days; he's old, out of step, and has never published often. Maybe that's the fate of masters who have written poems that can save your life, like this one:

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

It's the same when love comes to an end,

or the marriage fails and people say

they knew it was a mistake, that everybody

said it would never work. That she was

old enough to know better. But anything

worth doing is worth doing badly.

Like being there by that summer ocean

on the other side of the island while

love was fading out of her, the stars

burning so extravagantly those nights that

anyone could tell you they would never last.

Every morning she was asleep in my bed

like a visitation, the gentleness in her

like antelope standing in the dawn mist.

Each afternoon I watched her coming back

through the hot stony field after swimming,

the sea light behind her and the huge sky

on the other side of that. Listened to her

while we ate lunch. How can they say

the marriage failed? Like the people who

came back from Provence (when it was Provence)

and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.

I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,

but just coming to the end of his triumph.

I've read some women critics who are first bothered by his focus on women, as if he used them as stepping stones to God. Most don't. Gilbert's a little like Robert Graves, who found women in all their humanity the heart of a heartless world. He's a poet of sharp-eyed praise. Read him: he may be the last great poet.
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56 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Cat on January 18, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am an avid reader of poetry: classical and modern, in English, in translation, in other languages, in collections and magazines, in any form I can find it. Without a doubt, this is one of the finest books of poetry I've ever read, maybe the finest. Each poem is lyrical and elegant - complete in its own right - but the collection also works as a whole. The poems are spare, and for the most part, sad, speaking to love and loss, life, letting go, and holding on. They are classical subjects of poetry, and they manage here, to be both intimate - a seemingly autobiographical look into the author's emotional life - and universal. And somehow, too, they manage to be timeless and vast in their appeal: accessible, I think, to a casual reader of poetry, and yet equally rich for a student of the traditional forms. I devoured this book, reading it in a single sitting lasting late into the night. And then the next day, when I awoke, I read it again. That was a month ago, but the images linger: life altering and life affirming, the essence of great poetry.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By R. Moore on July 7, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Jack Gilbert's "The Abnormal Is Not Courage" has been on my wall for some 25 years -- words to live by. It has been joined by "A Brief for the Defense." Gilbert is a poet who is not afraid of ideas, of hard truths, of inherent conflict. His poems aren't about how to live, but why.
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By C. A. Pedriana on January 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
A book review in the LA Times encouraged me to buy this slim but rich book. Poetry, I think, attempts to express the unexpressible and the best poets do that in language accessible to all. Gilbert does that with sublime beauty. There's a great deal of wisdom here as well: "We're all burning in time, but each is consumed at his own speed. Each is the product of his spirt's refraction, of the inflection of that mind. It is the pace of our living that makes the world available." (Burning, p. 19) Even though I never experienced what he has in life, he gave me the insight and inspiration to look at my own with better eyes.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By oriana on April 1, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jack Gilbert is an uneven poet, wonderful at his imagistic best, talky and preachy at his abstract worst. The chief flaw of this 92-page volume is that it contains far too many poems. Without the clutter of the so-so pieces, this could be a lean and elegant book, more in keeping with the poet's ability to "flower by tightening." He deserves better editing; after all, he is an important voice in American poetry, an extremely ambitious poet who tries to marry wisdom with beauty. Who else would dare conclude a poem with this statement -
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as the rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.

Gilbert's unique strength is use of the imagination, his ability to interweave the mental realm with realistic details. "Bring in the Gods" and "The End of Paradise" are among the Top Five here, as is "What Song Should We Sing." Another interesting poem is "Trouble," with its startling ending that blurs the boundary between reality and imagination. "The Lost Hotels of Paris," "A Thanksgiving Dance," and "Burma" are also among my favorites, along with "Seen from Above" and "The Garden," which begins,

We come from a deep forest of years
into a valley of an unknown country
called loneliness. Without horse or dog,
the heavens bottomless overhead.
We are like Marco Polo who came back
with jewels hidden in the seams of his ragged clothes.

The opening of "Moreover" is simply extraordinary:

We are given the trees so we can know
what God looks like. And rivers
so we might understand Him. We are allowed
women so we can get into bed with the Lord,
however partial and momentary that is.
Read more ›
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