The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992

The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992

by Jack Gilbert
     
 

View All Available Formats & Editions

JOYCE'S MOTTO has had much fame but few apostles. Among them, there has been Jack Gilbert and his orthodoxy, a strictness that has required of this poet, now in the seventh decade of his severe life, the penalty of his having had almost no fame at all. In an era that puts before the artist so many sleek and official temptations, keeping unflinchingly to a code of

See more details below

Overview

JOYCE'S MOTTO has had much fame but few apostles. Among them, there has been Jack Gilbert and his orthodoxy, a strictness that has required of this poet, now in the seventh decade of his severe life, the penalty of his having had almost no fame at all. In an era that puts before the artist so many sleek and official temptations, keeping unflinchingly to a code of "silence, exile, and cunning" could not have been managed without a show of strictness well beyond the reach of the theater of the coy.

The "far, stubborn, disastrous" course of Jack Gilbert's resolute journey—not one that would promise in time to bring him home to the consolations of Penelope and the comforts of Ithaca but one that would instead take him ever outward to the impossible blankness of the desert—could never have been achieved in the society of others. What has kept this great poet brave has been the difficult company of his poems—and now we have, in Gilbert's third and most silent book, what may be, what must be, the bravest of these imperial accomplishments.

 

Read More

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679747673
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
02/28/1996
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
90
Sales rank:
636,639
Product dimensions:
5.35(w) x 8.33(h) x 0.38(d)

Read an Excerpt

Measuring the Tyger

Barrels of chains. Sides of beef stacked in vans.
Water buffalo dragging logs of teak in the river mud outside Mandalay. Pantocrater in the Byzantium dome.
The mammoth overhead crane bringing slabs of steel through the dingy light and roar to the giant shear that cuts the adamantine three-quarter-inch plates and they flop down. The weight of the mind fractures the girders and piers of the spirit, spilling out the heart's melt. Incandescent ingots big as cars trundling out of titanic mills, red slag scaling off the brighter metal in the dark. The Monongahela River below, night's sheen its belly. Silence except for the machinery clanging deeper in us. You will love again, people say. Give it time. Me with time running out. Day after day of the everyday.
What they call real life, made of eighth-inch gauge.
Newness strutting around as if it were significant.
Irony, neatness and rhyme pretending to be poetry.
I want to go back to that time after Michiko's death when I cried every day among the trees. To the real.
To the magnitude of pain, of being that much alive.
 

To See If Something Comes Next

There is nothing here at the top of the valley.
Sky and morning, silence and the dry smell of heavy sunlight on the stone everywhere.
Goats occasionally, and the sound of roosters in the bright heat where he lives with the dead woman and purity. Trying to see if something comes next. Wondering whether he has stalled.
Maybe, he thinks, it is like the Noh: whenever the script says dances, whatever the actor does next is a dance. If he stands still, he is dancing.
 

Scheming in the Snow

There is a time after what comes after being young, and a time after that, he thinks happily as he walks through the winter woods,
hearing in silence a woodpecker far off.
Remembering his Chinese friend whose brother gave her a jade ring from the Han Dynasty when she turned eighteen.
Two weeks later, when she was hurrying up the steps of a Hong Kong bridge, she fell,
and the thousand-year-old ring shattered on the concrete. When she told him, stunned and tears running down her face, he said,
"Don't cry. I'll get you something better."

Read More

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network

     

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >