Jack Gilbert is dead and outside it’s raining, the street in front of my apartment is empty of cars, the sky keeps moving around, gray and white like a sheet you might place over a body.
For me, Gilbert was one of the most important poets I have ever read. He was also one of the first poets I read who broke my heart and built up my heart at the same time. He was a poet who seemed to easily engage with his inner-life, was not shy about love or grief:
“Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If Babies/ are not starving someplace, they are starving somewhere else./ With flies in their nostrils”
“Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts/ of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred/ pitchers of honey.”
Gilbert died on Tuesday, November 13th in Berkeley, California. The author of six books including a new and collected, he’s a poet not to be forgotten. If you are reading this right now you should stop, get online, and order a copy of The Great Fires. You should own Gilbert’s Collected Poems. You should carry his Refusing Heaven around for a month straight.
Gilbert was a poet of meditative and spiritual strength, a poet that made sense of the complicated world for the rest of us who could not. He is a poet to share with your loved ones and your enemies.
In his poem, Waking at Night, Gilbert wrote:
“I lie in the dark/ wondering if this quiet in me now/ is a beginning or an end”
Instead of an end let’s all share Gilbert’s work with others, let’s turn his new quiet into a radiant beginning!