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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 ...
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.
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."
|The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart||5|
|Measuring the Tyger||7|
|Voices Inside and Out||8|
|Tear it Down||9|
|The Great Fires||12|
|Prospero without His Magic||14|
|Searching for Pittsburgh||18|
|Explicating the Twilight||20|
|Recovering Amid the Farms||22|
|The Spirit and the Soul||23|
|To See If Something Comes Next||25|
|A Stubborn Ode||26|
|Scheming in the Snow||27|
|Ruins and Wabi||28|
|Trying to Have Something Left Over||30|
|What is There to Say?||36|
|Prospero Dreams of Arnaut Daniel Inventing Love in the Twelfth Century||37|
|Tasters for the Lord||38|
|Carrying Torches at Noon||39|
|A Year Later||40|
|Looking Away from Longing||41|
|The Milk of Paradise||43|
|The White Heart of God||46|
|Michiko Nogami (1946-1982)||47|
|The Container for the Thing Contained||48|
|Moment of Grace||49|
|The Lord Sits with Me Out in Front||50|
|Between Aging and Old||51|
|The History of Men||52|
|Highlights and Interstices||56|
|Music is the Memory of What Never Happened||58|
|Harm and Boon in the Meetings||63|
|Man at a Window||64|
|Foraging for Wood on the Mountain||66|
|Me and Capablanca||70|
|A Ghost Sings, a Door Opens||71|
|I Imagine the Gods||72|
|Thinking About Ecstasy||73|
|Night Songs and Day Songs||74|
|Eating with the Emperor||75|
|From These Nettles, Alms||79|
|Hot Nights in Florida||80|
|Getting it All||81|
|The Edge of the World||82|
|Leporello on Don Giovanni||83|
|Half the Truth||85|
|The Lives of Famous Men||87|
|How to Love the Dead||89|
Posted May 13, 2009
I Also Recommend:
This is an awesome collection to have in one's own library.
Everyone should own this work, along with Ohio Blue Tips by Jeanne E. Clark, The Photos In The Closet by Daniel E. Lopez, and works by Alison Townsend.
Posted December 30, 1999
I'm glad for this book. It's my kind of poetry. I had never read anything of his before until I heard two poems being read on NPR. They're simple and moving and touching. This volume does what art is supposed to do -- to take you someplace you've never been before.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.