IN DISPRAISE OF POETRY: FINDING JACK GILBERT IN D.C.
Caroline Bock - Author of BEFORE MY EYES and LIE
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Caroline Bock-BEFORE MY EYES

IN DISPRAISE OF POETRY: FINDING JACK GILBERT IN D.C.


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
and
leaning down to the small ribs
bite me.
Hard.”
            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.


 
 

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