The work of Jack 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 understand 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, currently residing in Western Massachusetts, a national
treasure quietly walking the streets of Northampton. In January 2006, he will
be installed for a two-year term as the Poet Laureate of the city.