Biography of Jack Gilbert
Jack Gilbert was an American poet.
Born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.'s neighborhood of East Liberty, he attended Peabody High School then worked as a door-to-door salesman, an exterminator, and a steelworker. He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he and his classmate Gerald Stern developed a serious interest in poetry and writing.
His work is distinguished by simple lyricism and straightforward clarity of tone. Though his first book of poetry (Views of Jeopardy, 1962) was quickly recognized and Gilbert himself made into something of a media darling, he retreated from his earlier activity in the San Francisco poetry scene (where he participated in Jack Spicer's Poetry as Magic workshop) and moved to Europe, touring from country to country while living on a Guggenheim Fellowship. Nearly the whole of his career after the publication of his first book of poetry is marked by what he has described in interviews as a self-imposed isolation— which some have considered to be a spiritual quest to describe his alienation from mainstream American culture, and others have dismissed as little more than an extended period as a "professional houseguest" living off of wealthy American literary admirers. Subsequent books of poetry have been few and far between. He continued to write, however, and between books has occasionally contributed to The American Poetry Review, Genesis West, The Quarterly, Poetry, Ironwood, The Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker.
He was a close friend of the poet Linda Gregg who was once his student and to whom he was married for six years. He was also married to Michiko Nogami (a language instructor based in San Francisco, now deceased, about whom he has written many of his poems). He was also in a significant long term relationship with the Beat poet Laura Ulewicz during the fifties in San Francisco. Gilbert died on November 13, 2012 in Berkeley, California.
1962 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for 'Views of Jeopardy
1962 nomination for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for 'Views of Jeopardy
Lannan Literary Award for Poetry
Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
1982 American Book Award
1982 National Book Critics Circle Award
1983 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Monolithos
1983 the American Poetry Review Prize for Monolithos
1983 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Refusing Heaven
Jack Gilbert's Works:
Views of Jeopardy (1962)
Kochan (1984), A limited edition chapbook of nine poems, two of which were later republished in The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992; seven of the poems have not been otherwise published, including "Nights and Four Thousand Mornings," the longest poem Gilbert has published
The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992 (1994)
Refusing Heaven (2005)
Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh (2006)
Transgressions: Selected Poems (UK, 2006)
The Dance Most of All (2009)
Collected Poems (2012)
Co-authored with Jean Maclean and published by Olympia Press under the pseudonym Tor Kung:
My Mother Taught Me (1964)
Forever Ecstasy (1968)
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Jack Gilbert Poems
The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean, and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say, God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
Suddenly this defeat. This rain. The blues gone gray And the browns gone gray
The Great Fires
Love is apart from all things. Desire and excitement are nothing beside it. It is not the body that finds love. What leads us there is the body.
Woke up suddenly thinking I heard crying. Rushed through the dark house. Stopped, remembering. Stood looking out at bright moonlight on concrete.
The Abnormal Is Not Courage
The Poles rode out from Warsaw against the German Tanks on horses. Rode knowing, in sunlight, with sabers, A magnitude of beauty that allows me no peace. And yet this poem would lessen that day. Question
Tear It Down
We find out the heart only by dismantling what the heart knows. By redefining the morning, we find a morning that comes just after darkness. We can break through marriage into marriage.
Searching For Pittsburgh
The fox pushes softly, blindly through me at night, between the liver and the stomach. Comes to the heart and hesitates. Considers and then goes around it. Trying to escape the mildness of our violent world.
In Dispraise Of Poetry
When the King of Siam disliked a courtier, he gave him a beautiful white elephant. The miracle beast deserved such ritual that to care for him properly meant ruin.
Once upon a time I was sitting outside the cafe watching twilight in Umbria when a girl came out of the bakery with the bread her mother wanted. She did not know what to do. Already bewildered
Portrait Number Five: Against A New York...
I'd walk her home after work buying roses and talking of Bechsteins. She was full of soul. Her small room was gorged with heat
Recovering Amid The Farms
Every morning the sad girl brings her three sheep and two lambs laggardly to the top of the valley, past my stone hut and onto the mountain to graze. She turned twelve last year and it was legal
A Brief For The Defense
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.
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
Of course it was a disaster. The unbearable, dearest secret has always been a disaster. The danger when we try to leave.
Tear It Down
We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.