Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Who Is Jack Gilbert?

I've been meaning to remark on the essay a few days ago in Slate on the poet Jack Gilbert. Who is Jack Gilbert, you ask? Me too. I had read a handful of Gilbert poems over the years, and been haunted by a few, but I've never known anything about him, biographically speaking, or felt a real drive to find out. I can't say the piece did much to spark my interest in him as a man--that is, there's no biographical information in it that really excites me, makes me want to read the poems to find out what that guy wrote (as there might be with, say, Byron or Ginsberg or Ovid)--but when I went back to my files, I found this poem, which I copied out shortly after 9/11. It still leaves me stunned:


Imagine if suffering were real.
Imagine if those old people were afraid of death.
What if the midget or the girl with one arm
really felt pain? Imagine how impossible it would be
to live if some people were
alone and afraid all their lives.

Maybe I'm wrong about the need to "hitch" poetry to something else. Damn. Ain't that a Poem to Know?

1 comment:

Rachel said...

Jack Gilbert knocks my socks off. I only learned of his work recently, but I'm stunned and amazed every time I open one of his collections.

As it happens, Inkberry will be presenting him (doing a talk/Q-and-A, and a reading) in early November -- just finalized the date today. :-)