Kirschten, Robert, ed. Critical Essays on A. R. Ammons. New

York: G.K. Hall, 1997. Schneider, Steven P., ed. Complexities of Motion: New Essays on A. R. Ammons's Long Poems. Madison, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1999.

Piotr Gwiazda

GILBERT, JACK (1925- ) Jack Gilbert's reputation comes more from the quality of his work than from the quantity. Although he has only published three volumes of poetry since 1962, he is revered by many contemporary poets. Gilbert once said, "I have no need to publish. My writing doesn't come first. My life comes first" (qtd. in Adamo 157). But for Gilbert, his life is his work. Eschewing careerism, he has established himself as a poet's poet by magnifying the possibilities for elegiac poetry.

Gilbert was born and raised in Pittsburgh. He has spent much of his adult life abroad. In 1962 Gilbert was awarded the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for Views of Jeopardy. In 1975 he became chief lecturer on American literature for the U.S. Department of State. His second book, Monolithos (1975), won the American Poetry Review Prize and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle Award. The Great Fires (1994) also met with great critical acclaim.

Gilbert's work engages a wide variety of landscapes: Pittsburgh, Italy, Greece, and Japan, among others. His passionate commitment to physical place, in addition to his well-crafted descriptions of his emotional landscape, help Gilbert transcend the easy category of CONFESSIONAL poet that some critics apply. Janet Moore explains this transcendence best when she writes that his "poetry is about the reciprocal relationship between experience and language; it shows how these relationships are parallel" (1). Gilbert extends the elegiac project that began with romanticism into the realm of a less certain, more troubled, world. He does not, however, allow a postmodern cynicism to undermine that project.

In "Michiko Nogami" (1994), he laments the loss of his wife, "a dead woman filling the whole world." In "Tear it Down" (1994), he argues, "We find out the heart only by dismantling what / the heart knows," and insists that poetry should respond to loss with well-earned audacity—an audacity that comes from the power of experience and the power of language. This insistence is the generative force behind his poetry.

Gilbert's work moves beyond cosmetic attention to mechanics—that is, formalism for its own sake—while avoiding an indulgence of the self. His work transforms experience into engaging poetic figures.

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