Reading Jack Gilbert...

I’ve been reading Jack Gilbert these days – Refusing Heaven. What a wonderful and personal voice he has. Here’s a complete poem form the collection that makes me open into something I don’t fully understand, nor do I need to – but I like the feeling.

The Abandoned Valley

Can you understand being alone so long
you would go out in the middle of the night
and put a bucket into the well
so you could feel something down there
tug at the other end of the rope?

* * *

In the Fall/Winter 2005 issue of The Paris Review, no. 175, you'll find more of Gilbert’s new works and an interview – since the release of Refusing Heaven. Here's a taste:

How do you start a poem?

There’s no one way. Sometimes I’m walking along the street and I find it there. Sometimes it’s something I’ve been thinking about. Sometimes it’s an apparition.

How do you know when you’ve finished one?

If I’m writing well it comes to an end with an almost-audible click. When I started out I wouldn’t write a poem until I knew the first line and the last line and what it was about and what would make it a success. I was a tyrant and I was good at it. But the most important day in my career as a writer was when Linda [Gregg] said, Did you ever think of listening to your poems? And my poetry changed. I didn’t give up making precreated poetry, but you have to write a poem the way you ride a horse – you have to know what to do with it. You have to be in charge of a horse or it will eat all day – you’ll never get back to the barn. But if you tell the horse how to be a horse, if you force it, the horse will probably break a leg. The horse and rider have to be together.

* * *

another short poem…

Winter in the Night Fields

I was getting water tonight
off-guard when I saw the moon
in my bucket and was tempted
by those Chinese poets
and their immaculate pain.


Peter said...

Wow. Wonderful little poem.

Paula said...

What small, highly precious jewels.

Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Thanks Peter and Paula. The Gilbert interview in TPR is outsanding. Very insightful.