Jack Gilbert was a major figure in American poetry, but was always a total outsider, defiantly unfashionable and publishing only four books in five decades. Initially associated with the Beats, he left America after winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize with Views of Jeopardy in 1962, eking out a living for many years on Greek islands. His second collection, Monolithos, appeared twenty years later in 1982, but he made his strongest impression on American readers with two later collections, The Great Fires (1994) and Refusing Heaven (2005), winner of the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award. His final collection The Dance Most of All (2009) was followed by his Collected Poems from Knopf in 2012. Transgressions was his only UK publication, and covers his collections from Views of Jeopardy to Refusing Heaven. Jack Gilbert wrote compellingly about passion, loss and loneliness. His poems are filled with a sense of wonder at existence and with his surprise at finding happiness – despite grief, struggle and alienation – in a life spent in luminous understanding of his own blessings and shortcomings. His work is both a rebellious assertion of clarity and a profound affirmation of the world in all its aspects. His poems are about being alive: the nature of the self, the life he lived and the people he loved.
'He takes himself away to a place more inward than is safe to go; from that awful silence and tightening, he returns to us poems of savage compassion...Gilbert is the rarest of beings: a necessary poet' - James Dickey 'Poetry of constantly surprising beauty and directness. Jack Gilbert resides with the modernist giants of the early century because, among other reasons, he is not intimidated by them' - Frank Lentricchia 'The rigor of Gilbert's purpose is matched by the economy of his means...Serious and unflinching, Gilbert is the rare poet who manages to come at the Romantic most effectively from an unrelentingly classical base' - Allen Hoey, American Poetry Review
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