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A Tribute to Jack Gilbert

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Jack Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. He was educated in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where he later participated in Jack Spicer's famous "Poetry as Magic" Workshop at San Francisco State College in 1957.

Soon after publishing his first book, Views of Jeopardy, in 1962, Gilbert received a Guggenheim Fellowship and subsequently moved abroad, living in England, Denmark, and Greece. During that time, he also toured fifteen countries as a lecturer on American Literature for the U.S. State Department. Nearly twenty years after completing Views of Jeopardy, he published his second book, Monolithos. The collection takes its title from Greek, meaning "single stone," and refers to the landscape where he lived on the island of Santorini.

About Gilbert's work, the poet James Dickey said, "He takes himself away to a place more inward than is safe to go; from that awful silence and tightening, he returns to us poems of savage compassion."

Gilbert is also the author of Transgressions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2006), Refusing Heaven (2005), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992 (1996). His poetry has been featured in The American Poetry Review, The Quarterly, Poetry, Ironwood, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, and other journals. He has been awarded a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Monolithos won the Stanley Kunitz Prize and the American Poetry Review Prize, and Views of Jeopardy won the Yale Younger Poets Series. Both books were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Gilbert was the 1999-2000 Grace Hazard Conkling writer-in-residence at Smith College and a visiting professor and writer-in-residence at the University of Tennessee in 2004. He currently resides in western Massachusetts.


 gilbertBookCover.jpgTear it Down
Copyright by Jack Gilbert
 

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.