Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Jack Gilbert (1925-2012)

Jack Gilbert was one of my favorite living poets, until yesterday when he died at age 87. If you haven't read his poetry and you're so inclined, I highly recommend him.

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It's the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was 
old enough to know better. But anything 
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while 
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
come back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but coming to the end of his triumph.

Jack Gilbert, from Refusing Heaven

This is a wonderful article that appeared in this past Monday's Los Angeles Times newspaper, and I've quoted quite liberally from his poetry on this blog, here, here, here -- well, that's a start.


  1. I love this. Not only poetry, but true wisdom.

  2. This may be one of the saddest poems I've ever read.

  3. I know...... I was planning to post about him, too. Still might. That poem kills me.

  4. Wow, that poem. One day, when someone asks me why I began liking poetry after spending most of my life avoiding it, I will credit you. I rarely seek it out, but every poem you bring to my attention hits with the precision of an arrow in the bullseye. Thank you.

  5. That is a beautiful poem. As kario said, Wow.

  6. What a wonderful, wonderful poem. So true: never forget the ectasy that preceeded the pain...

  7. great poem, and much needed by me at the moment. I don't know his work, but will investigate based on your recommendation and the power of this poem.



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