“When the King of Siam disliked a courtier,
He gave him a beautiful white elephant."
….” In Dispraise of Poetry by Jack Gilbert
I made a great find this past weekend at Capitol Books, a used bookstore in D.C., with floor-to-ceilings offerings in a row house near the Eastern Market—a copy of the poet Jack Gilbert’s Views of Jeopardy, his first book of poetry from The Yale Series of Younger Poets, published in 1962. I am not a collector of things— I’ve never felt the urge to bring anything but words into my house.
I believe there may be a chapbook out there. I remember he published one while I was at Syracuse University, the one year he taught at this upstate New York college, and I believe I even bought it. But it’s lost to the years and a dozen or so moves.
“Three days I sat
Bewildered by love.
Three nights I watched
The gradations of dark.
Of light …”
Before Morning in Perugia by Jack Gilbert
What I remember most about him was that he was slight man, white haired and in his sixties by the time I was his student. He was passionate about the poetic line and about women, especially those he found himself with in places foreign to him, a guy from Pittsburgh, and I find that these passions imbued in this early set of poems.
“… When I got quiet
she’d put on usually Debussy
leaning down to the small ribs
Portrait Number Five: Against A New York Summer by Jack Gilbert
I think of him so young writing these poems, and want to cry out, but instead I read on, gorging on the lines, ebullient with my find.