I was introduced to Jack Gilbert through Candler professor David Pacini's recent book Through Narcissus' Glass Darkly: The Modern Religion of Conscience, in which many of the chapters begin with Gilbert's poems. Now in his mid-80s, the well-known and heralded poet's language is striking in its straightforward beauty, but I continue to find myself held at a distance by it. It feels alien somehow, even in the unexpected and startling constructions and images, and I look forward to seeing how the feeling evolves as I continue to read through his decades-spanning work.
The poem below more or less captures exactly how I feel every time I write.
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By Jack Gilbert
Poem, you sonofabitch, it's bad enough
that I embarrass myself working so hard
to get it right even a little,
and that little grudging and awkward.
But it's afterwards I resent, when
the sweet sure should hold me like
a trout in the bright summer stream.
There should be at least briefly
access to your glamour and tenderness.
But there's always this same old