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In “Dante Dances,” Gilbert offers vignettes of the poet’s love for Beatrice -- a subject that has a strong emblematic place in my own view of the world, so perhaps I am biased toward this poem -- each described in terms of a dance.In the concluding stanza, Beatrice is long dead, Dante is old, with his great work behind him. He is a dancer who can manage only the simple steps of the beginning.
Yet, a sense of grace and acceptance, a tenuous dignity, belies the heartache and very real sorrow that accompanies his speakers’ lives. Please note the bibliographic information and if you like this piece below, I bet you’ll want to get a copy of the collection for yourself. The beggars of Calcutta blinding their children while somewhere people are rich and eating with famous friends and having running water in their fine houses. The tired farmers thresh barley all day under the feet of donkeys amid the merciless power of the sun. All of us wane, knowing things could have been different.
When Gordon was released from the madhouse, he could not find Hayden to say goodbye.
He won the Yale Younger Poets prize in 1962 for his first collection, (1995).
He has spent a good deal of time overseas, particularly in Japan and on one or more remote Greek islands.
In the poem “Ruins and Wabi,” he begins with a contrast between the harshness of the life and the beauty of the photographs that came out of the Storyville district of New Orleans, before shifting to a consideration of the essential, describing as he does so much of what strikes me as best in his poetry.
That reduction to essence is a recurring theme, and there are repeated considerations, and embraces, of what remains when one has been winnowed down by time, by tragedy and by the other business of living.Because this was radio, it was necessary to read aloud excerpts from the collection in question on the air, so the poetry could actually be appreciated in its most potentially effective form.It was through one such report that I first became aware of by Jack Gilbert.Only two poems in the book are divided into stanzas, and only a handful run longer than a page.There is little in the way of showy vocabulary: most of the poems have the feeling of having been turned and adjusted by careful degrees to their sparest elements, using the most direct words that will serve Gilbert’s purposes.For a few years now one of my favorite poets has been Pittsburgh’s own Jack Gilbert.According to his bio, he is currently living in Western Massachusetts, and his work reads, for me at least, as a sensitive yet tough-minded exposition on the realities of rust, decrepitude, and the sufferings of our day-to-day lives. The sane woman under the bed with the rat that is licking off the peanut butter she puts on her front teeth for him.]; “Lovers” is made up almost entirely of a joke involving peasant women, a man in need of the loo, and architecture; and "The Lives of Famous Men" finds Gilbert on his Greek isle reminding himself that he must cook the mackerel that night because if he does not "it will kill me tomorrow/ in the vegetable stew. I conclude with my favorite Jack Gilbert poem, “The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart”, a meditation on language in which virtually all of the ideas are right on the surface.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.Each seems to interlace or bind with others in the book such that the collection a collection has an impressive structural integrity and cumulative strength.Being in danger of telling you only how I am affected by these poems, I need to try to explain how they work and why I feel so strongly about them.