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Collected Poems Hardcover – March 13, 2012
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Some examples follow:
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?Read more ›
If you enjoy the poetry of Wallace Stevens or Clarles Simic you might very well enjoy Jack Gilbert.
Jack moved among the Beats in San Francisco, knew them all, but he was not of them. He ends "The Abnormal Is Not Courage" convinced that what matters, what is of value, fundamentally, "is the normal excellence, of long accomplishment."
Never into drugs or alcohol, Jack has always been a man of intense, unaffected curiosity about people, places, things, and ideas. "If we are always good does God lose track/of us?" But unable to engage in chitchat, Jack has never been drawn to hanging out with poets.
With the ideal face and voice of the poet, a man of no fixed abode, of few possessions, when he came to visit you, he came by bus, greeted you carrying only a battered, fat briefcase. Happily always on the move, he could say of himself in Pittsburgh, where he was born, in Italy, where he fell out of a tree into near death, in San Francisco, New York, Paris, London, Greece, Sweden, "I wake to freshness. And do reverence."
Jack used to eat his lunch in a cemetery beside a tree that grew out of a grave. "I liked to think of someone eating what was left of my heart and spirit as I lay in the dark earth translating into fruit." All his life Jack chose the solitary life moving around the world, purely living, loving, writing. In old age, living in a room in New England, he writes, "I say grace over everything."
The poems of young love and the illusions they shatter are angry and clouded. As he moves through his adult life the tone softens somewhat, and the poems gather length and reveal themselves more completely. Often he refers to historical and mythical figures to compare or contrast his experiences with theirs, trying to understand the worldly limitations imposed on us all.
His first marriage doesn't work out; he's not sure why. His second ends sadly with the death of his wife, a grief he carries. His journeys take him to some magical places, rough places, ordinary places, but nothing changes the rules we all try to understand. Love after fifty is very welcome and pleasant, but the stakes are lower, not as electric, but then, what choice do we have?
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Jack Gilbert is one of my favorite poets and I love this collection.Published 1 month ago by Dianne @ Oops! I Read A Book Again
What an interesting man and life, and what lovely poetry!Published 10 months ago by William Blackburn
I greeted the publication of Gilbert's Collected Poems with a gallon of joy and two drops of sadness. Read morePublished 11 months ago by DOD Poet
Some really great poems, but a lot that are so-so. A selected poems would be a better choicePublished 13 months ago by Roberta Camp
A necessary read! The work of a poetry master--a lot to learn and enjoy.Published 13 months ago by Wendy T Carlisle
Never heard of Jack Gilbert before. He is extremely hard to understand and I may need to look into his background experience to get some clues.Published 15 months ago by Bob R