Jack Gilbert'S Poetry Essays

Feel free to use the comment feature to open a dialogue about this piece, what you like, don’t like, don’t get, or where I’ve misread in my scant gloss above.(I think it was) had a poetry correspondent, whose name I no longer recall, who would turn up once a week to discuss a new volume of contemporary poetry.

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Which is twice/ wasteful." As a group, though, the poems of are full of the tragic sense that life is short, that everything ultimately goes wrong, but that the living of that life -- and perhaps the making of art, on which Gilbert is not often explicit -- makes all the difference, as in the concluding lines of “Tearing it Down:”. It is not a “difficult” poem, but it and the other strong poems in this volume are no less admirable, in my view, for their directness.

Then, Much of Gilbert’s poetry works in straightforward ways, with their effects being dependent on the care with which he has positioned a phrase or chosen an image.

In “Finding Something,” for example, he sits outside the house in which Michiko is dying, listening in case she needs him and anticipating the next time he must help her to the chamber pot.

She will lean against my leg as she sits so as not to fall over in her weakness. 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.[There was a quotation from an essay by Auden (“The Vision of Eros”) that I was going to insert here, as being a good assessment of Gilbert’s approach to love, but the book containing it has gone temporarily missing; perhaps another time.] I would not want to give the impression that Gilbert’s poetry is consistently downbeat or that it is in any way "depressing." In fact, a small number of these poems (though not the strongest in the collection) seem to have been intended to raise a chuckle, or at least a wry grin.

The portentously titled “Prospero Dreams of Daniel Arnaut Inventing love in the Twelfth Century,” for example, gives an almost rube-goldbergian history of the origins of perfume in the course of its nine lines, involving deer, flutes and helicopters [in the 12th Century? We must eat through the wildness of her sweet body already in our bed to reach the body within that body.


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