Friday, June 01, 2007

Another beautiful poem by Jack Gilbert

When someone gave me a poem by Jack Gilbert in reply to a post I had some time ago, I thought it was so beautiful and simple that I had to purchase a couple of his books. A few weeks ago, they landed in my mailbox (thank heaven for Amazon), and yesterday I found some time to look at The Great Fires - a collection of Gilbert's poems from 1982 - 1992. I was not disappointed.

His words carry their own weight and balance on a thin line of golden warmth, melancholy wetness and the now and then icy shock of feeling the total emptiness a life can hold.

Overall the word 'simplicity' seems to suit his poems the best. He recognizes the thin wire of life and is holding on to it, by words.

So here goes:


We think the fire eats the wood.
We are wrong. The wood reaches out
to the flame. The fire licks at
what the wood harbors, and the wood
gives itself away to that intimacy,
the manner in which we and the world
meet each new day. Harm and boon
in the meetings. As heart meets what
is not heart, the way the spirit
encounters the flesh and the mouth meets
the foreignness in another mouth. We stand
looking at the ruin of our garden
in the early dark of November, hearing crows
go over while the first snow shines coldly
everywhere. Grief makes the heart
apparent as much as sudden happiness can.

I can't control myself completely here, have to add another comment: This is one of many poems that reveals a certain Easternness with him. I am sure the Japanese and Chinese languages hold a shorter, simpler word for 'simplicity', and that their terms can be applied directly onto Gilbert's work. If anyone cunning in these languages should read this, please leave me a comment with some words or phrases that might suit this guy's "project".

(I suspect that his way with words is the Western way of expressing some simple truths many Eastern cultures&literatures have known and shown for years - the haikus as one example.)

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