Jack Gilbert’s poetry is like cool mist on a hot day

Bengal tiger

The Bengal tiger, fashioned so miraculously well.

I first heard of the poet Jack Gilbert in October 2013, when Michigan writer Matt Bell opened his reading at University of North Texas by reciting Gilbert’s poem, “Hunger.”

Then, about a week ago, I was reading The Sun magazine and stumbled into a sample issue that included five or six poems by Gilbert, who lived for two decades in Europe, in a self-imposed exile. He said he was not a professional of poetry but a farmer of poetry, and he published only five books of verse in 50 years. Because of its rarity, his poetry feels fresh.

One of my favorites was “A Brief for the Defense,” which begins:

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well.

Read the full poem here.

The opening of “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.

Read “Failing and Flying” in its entirety here.

I appreciate Gilbert’s straightforward simplicity.

Tagged , , , , , , , ,
%d bloggers like this: