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October 20, 2005

Poets Jack Gilbert and Linda Gregg to Read at Smith

NORTHAMPTON, Mass.—Smith College will present poets Jack Gilbert and Linda Gregg at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1, in Weinstein Auditorium, Wright Hall. The event is free, open to the public and wheelchair accessible.

The work of Gilbert is both a rebellious assertion of the call to clarity and a profound affirmation of the world in all its aspects. David St. John praised him for the “stoniest and most aesthetic Romanticism in American poetry.” Within the precise and tightly-controlled boundaries of the page, his stoic vision and solitary labor produce a poetry of integrity that is also deeply expressive, deeply human. Of his vision, the New York Times writes, “Life and death are not opposites in this conception of things; they partake of each other. Together, they are the spirit.”

Gilbert's first volume of poems, “Views Of Jeopardy,” received theYale Younger Poet's Prize in 1962 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, alongside collections by Robert Frost and William Carlos Williams. Muriel Rukeyser called this early work “abrupt, Etruscan, illuminated.” While there were long intervals between Gilbert’s succeeding books, each has remained true to the sparse, concrete, yet powerfully affecting style that has always characterized his work and each has been greeted eagerly and garnered great acclaim. “Monolithos: Poems, 1962 and 1982,” won him a second Pulitzer nomination, as well as the Stanley Kunitz Prize and the American Poetry Review Prize. Of his third and perhaps most severe book, “The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992,” James Dickey wrote, “He takes himself away to a place more inward than is safe to go; from that awful silence and tightening, he returns to us poems of savage compassion.”

In his long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated new collection, “Refusing Heaven,” Gilbert writes about the commingled passion, loneliness and sometimes surprising happiness of a life spent in luminous understanding of his own blessings and shortcomings. With masterful reserve and deep patience, he infuses the everyday, in its struggles and delights, with a clarity of vision that casts shadows on lightness and brings illumination to the dimly unconsidered.

Gilbert has been awarded a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. Gilbert served in 1999-2000 as the Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College. He has lived for extended periods in New York, San Francisco, Northampton, Japan and the Greek islands.

A distinguished poet herself, Gregg first met Gilbert at age 19. Partnered for years early on, they have closely aligned sensibilities and have gone on to become lifelong friends. Restlessly seeking but attentively observed, the poems of Linda Gregg seek to trace the grief of living to its full and beautiful flower. Desire and longing—shot through with lucid observation and luminary grace—are as monumental in these poems, and as sacred, as joy and fulfillment. Says W.S. Merwin, “[Gregg’s poems] are inseparable from the surprising, unrolling, eventful, pure current of their language, and they convey at once the pain of individual loss, a steady and utterly personal radiance.”

Gregg’s work rings with the musicality of lived experience, of having traveled to where her poems lead and offering back an electric and intimate account of those journeys. With energy and insight drawn from, rather than brought to, the exploration of the inscrutable and inconsolable, Gregg works through grief and solitude with radiant dignity and quiet public grace. William Arrowsmith praises her for “an always observant eye, a disciplined musical sense, the true craftsman's knowledge of her material,” and Gerald Stern says, “Linda Gregg brings us back to poetry. She is original and mysterious, one of the best poets in America."

“Things and Flesh” is Gregg’s sixth collection of poetry; a new collection is due out from Graywolf press in Spring 2006. As Luci Brock-Broido put it, “Linda Gregg continues to be the builder of beautiful contraptions, poems built steadfastly by real life, bright and stark, truths told tranquil in unblinding light.” Gregg is the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Whiting Writer's Award, and several Pushcart Prizes. Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, the Paris Review, the Kenyon Review and the Atlantic Monthly, and she has taught at the University of Iowa, Columbia University, Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley. She lives in New York City.

Gilbert’s and Gregg’s reading will be followed by book-selling and signing. For further information, contact Cindy Furtek in the Poetry Center office at (413) 585-4891 or Ellen Doré Watson, director, at (413) 585-3368.

Office of College Relations
Smith College
Garrison Hall
Northampton, Massachusetts 01063

Marti Hobbes
News Assistant
T (413) 585-2190
F (413) 585-2174

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