Gathered in this volume readers will find more than fifty years of poems by the incomparable Jack Gilbert, from his Yale Younger Poets prize-winning volume to glorious late poems, including a section of previously uncollected work.
There is no one quite like Jack Gilbert in postwar American poetry. After garnering early acclaim with Views of Jeopardy (1962), he escaped to Europe and lived apart from the literary establishment, honing his uniquely fierce, declarative style, with its surprising abundance of feeling. He reappeared in our midst with Monolithos (1982) and then went underground again until The Great Fires (1994), which was eventually followed by Refusing Heaven (2005), a prizewinning volume of surpassing joy and sorrow, and the elegiac The Dance Most of All (2009). Whether his subject is his boyhood in working-class Pittsburgh, the women he has loved throughout his life, or the bittersweet losses we all face, Gilbert is by turns subtle and majestic: he steals up on the odd moment of grace; he rises to crescendos of emotion. At every turn, he illuminates the basic joys of everyday experience.
Now, for the first time, we have all of Jack Gilbert’s work in one essential volume: testament to a stunning career and to his place at the forefront of poetic achievement in our time.
Gilbert has long held legendary status among poetry readers for his wise, hard-won poems about the joys and complexities of romantic love, about grief and about the power of experience deeply felt. His 1994 collection The Great Fires (which is included here in its entirety) is, for many, practically a sacred text. The publication of Gilbert's complete body of work to date is doubtless a literary event. From his Yale Younger Poet's Prize winning debut, Gilbert's poems have felt wise beyond their years and yet youthful, full of contradictions that give them life: "Joy has been a habit," he writes in one early poem, which concludes, "Now/ suddenly/ this rain." Here are also many and many kinds of poems about travel or life in far-flung places, particularly Greece. Plentiful, too, are poems of marriage its difficulties ("Eight years/ and her love for me quieted away"), its ecstasies, and its ending: divorce is memorably figured as "looking/ out at the bright moonlight on concrete." Gilbert is perhaps best known, however, for the grief-stricken poems that chart the dying of and then mourning over his wife, Michiko, of whom he writes, "The arches of her feet are like voices/ of children calling in the grove of lemon trees,/ where my heart is as helpless as crushed birds." All poetry lovers will want this book.
Customer ReviewsSee All
When you read the best books, they are left thicker for it. As if you left behind something of yourself in the pages between the dusty, well-worn covers. This is one of those books.
Gilbert is closer to *it* than almost anyone.
This book -- these few hundred pages -- are all the poems he ever wrote. As you flick through them, remember that they are the measure of a man's life. And some of them will stay with you forever. Here's one of them:
"...Again and again we put our
sweet ghosts on small paper boats and sailed
them back into their death, each moving slowly
into the dark, disappearing as our hearts
visited and savoured, hurt and yearned."