I was saddened by the news that the great poet Jack Gilbert just died today. Here is a very good bio and interview from years ago in The Paris Review.<http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/5583/the-art-of-poetry-no-91-jack-gilbert>
and here is a tender beautiful piece on Linda Gregg… and Jack: <http://alexdimitrov.tumblr.com/post/36726870922/meeting-jack-gilbert-and-linda-gregg>from Burning (Andante Non Troppo) We are all burning in time, but each is consumed at his own speed. Each is the product of his spirit’s refraction, of the inflection of that mind. It is the pace of our living that makes the world available. Regardless of the body’s lion-wrath or forest waiting, despite the mind’s splendid appetite or the sad power in our soul’s separation from God and women it is always our gait of being that decides how much is seen, what the mystery of us knows, and what the heart will smell of the landscape….
I went back over a poem I wrote in Jane Hirshfield’s class at Napa Valley Writer’s Conference over 5 years ago.I re-worked it, and will continue to do so for awhile. The bones of his poems are so strong, you can build a house or another poem from the inherent structure of his words. So here’s my tribute to Jack Gilbert and his poem it sprouted from. There are references to other poets and I use the titles of two of Ruth Stone’s poetry books, In an Iridescent Time, and Simplicity, as well as lines from Shelley and Gilbert.Retail – [after Jack Gilbert’s Going Wrong] ~ by Tamam Kahn For Ruth Stone The dress is beautiful. Pleated shibori. Folded shivers. Sculpted silk that eases toward the hem and respects the line of a woman’s hip. It’s like nothing else in the shop. In an Iridescent Time, the woman hums, smoothing it. “What can you know of my silks!” demands the Malicious Muse. Simplicity, the woman answers as she lifts the mannequin to the display window, rotates the base. The muse gestures dramatically. “I have shown you fabric dyed with lines from Shelly: “God save the Queen!” All you come up with is –– simplicity?” The woman walks outside, tilts her head slightly and takes in the whole window. She steps back in and selects a branch of forsythia. “You have lost the elegant link between word and textile,” She takes a chenille scarf and scrunches it. “Your references are obscure, color choice at odds with Caucasian skin. Silk worms would find your efforts clumsy.” I am not clumsy, she thinks, watching the edge of the silk end in “three knots and a space…” She smiles and picks up the smooth tagging gun. Not clumsy. Ferocious. <> Notes: In an Iridescent Time, Simplicity: books by Ruth Stone Shelly wrote “A New National anthem” which repeats: “God save the Queen.” Jack Gilbert, “Having the Having:” “…three knots and a space…”
++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++Going Wrong by Jack Gilbert The fish are terrible. They are brought up the mountain in the dawn most days, beautiful and alien and cold from night under the sea, the grand rooms fading from their flat eyes. Soft machinery of the dark, the man thinks, washing them. “What can you know of my machinery!” demands the Lord. Sure, the man says quietly and cuts into them, laying back the dozen struts, getting to the muck of something terrible. The Lord insists: “You are the one who choses to live this way. I build cities where things are human. I make Tuscany and you go to live with rock and silence.” The man washes away the blood and arranges the fish on a big plate. Starts the onions in the hot olive oil and puts in peppers. “You have lived all year without women.” He takes out everything and puts in the fish. “No one knows where you are. People forget you. You are vain and stubborn.” The man slices tomatoes and lemons. Takes out the fish and scrambles eggs. I am not stubborn, he thinks, laying all of it on the table in the courtyard full of early sun, shadows of swallows flying on the food. Not stubborn, just greedy.
It is sobering to see how ordinary and even the language is. It reminds me of great musicians who seem to be doing very little, as they pull on your heartstrings and move you to tears.
I am grateful to have read his words, even the titles are wonderful. Here are a few:
Haunted Importantly, Scheming in the Snow, Having the Having, The Container for the Thing Contained, Naked Except for the Jewelry, Failing and Flying, and Half the Truth…
Thank you Jack Gilbert for all I have learned from your poetry. <> <>