Thursday, December 20, 2012

Hey Jack Gilbert, Where Are You Going With That Empty Tin Bucket?

I work retail, and this season of buying and lists, demands and the wrapping of the many many gifts, (I could giftwrap a book in my sleep) and waiting on people, and trying to be friendly and upbeat, well. It's taken its toll.  Which is to say that I keep wanting to post things here but end up at night drained of the energy to focus. But here's a good thing: I write a first draft of a poem almost every day on my train ride to work. And another: I do still read a lot.  Although on the train on the way home, after a long day of retail hell, playing Angry Birds on my I-phone is the only thing to soothe an over-the-whole thing savage breast.

But I did want to take the time to tell you that one of the very best books of poetry published this year is Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems. Stark, without self pity, and beautiful in the way a well-made bowl or a wooden chair is beautiful: they do the work they were designed to do.  As always happens when I fall in love with a poet's work, my own poems start trying to sound like the work I love.  And that's okay.  Maybe, like Gilbert, I will be unabashed and unashamed to use words like love and heart and yearn. Like silence and music and rivers and God. And the moon, of course, that old dinner plate left on the table after the dinner party's long over.

Here is one of the many elegies Gilbert, who just died, wrote for his wife:

MICHIKO NONGAMI (1946 - 1982)

Is she any more apparent because she is not
anymore forever? Is her whiteness more white
because she was the color of pale honey?
A smokestack making the sky more visible.
A dead woman filling the whole world. Michiko
said, "The roses you gave me kept me awake
with the sound of their petals falling."

Here's a diving board to begin learning more about Jack Gilbert.