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 withViews 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 withMonolithos(1982) and then went underground again untilThe Great Fires(1994), which was eventually followed byRefusing Heaven(2005), a prizewinning volume of surpassing joy and sorrow, and the elegiacThe 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.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
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. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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March 13, 2012
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