A review of
by Jack Gilbert
Early on, Jack Gilbert chose nonactivity over activity—a strict aversion to scurrying—an anachronism that translates to the casual twenty-first-century reader as pretension or laziness. Gilbert is seventy-nine years old; has published four books; won the Yale Younger Poets Prize in 1962 for Views of Jeopardy; was nominated for a Pulitzer for that book and the next one, Monolithos, which appeared twenty years later; won Guggenheim and NEA fellowships; published a third book ten years later, the great The Great Fires; has mainly lived in places where life consists of cooking, writing, and being in love with one woman or another (those mentioned repeatedly in his poems number three, in five decades of writing).
Those who demand surface complexity to prove a poem’s depth will likely dismiss Gilbert’s work as sentimental, obvious, or thin. Cultural context confuses the reception of work that eschews contemporary received ideas. Gilbert’s aesthetics of exclusion may easily be misread as emptiness, when in fact it’s the result of careful editing of the once full. The weathered look of Gilbert’s poems is not that of a sandblasted picture frame from Anthropologie but of actual wabi.
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