Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Poem by Jack Gilbert

In 1995, the poet Bill Olsen urged me to read the work of Jack Gilbert, so I ordered a copy of The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992 (Alfred A. Knopf, 1994). It is a book I go back to time and again.

Gilbert's 1962 volume, Views of Jeopardy, won the 1962 Yale Younger Poets Prize. He is also the author of the collections Monolithos and Refusing Heaven (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005). It is unfortunate that the prize-winning Yale collection and Monolithos have been allowed to slip from print. How sad that we do not have greater access to poems like this one.



THE GREAT FIRES

Love is apart from all things.
Desire and excitement are nothing beside it.
It is not the body that finds love.
What leads us there is the body.
What is not love provokes it.
What is not love quenches it.
Love lays hold of everything we know.
The passions which are called love
also change everything to a newness
at first. Passion is clearly the path
but does not bring us to love.
It opens the castle of our spirit
so that we might find the love which is
a mystery hidden there.
Love is one of the many great fires.
Passion is a fire made of many woods,
each of which gives off its own special odor
so that we can know the many kinds
that are not love. Passion is the paper
and twigs that kindle the flames
but cannot sustain them. Desire perishes
because it tries to be love.
Love is eaten away by the appetite.
Love does not last, but it is different
from the passions that do not last.
Love lasts by not lasting.
Isaiah said each man walks in his own fire
for his sins. Love allows us to walk
in the sweet music of our particular heart.

4 Comments:

Blogger Keith Woodruff said...

Thanks for the poem, Greg. And hello.

A friend of mine, Brent Goodman (who pointed me toward your site), read this poem at my wedding. Reading it again is a perfect way to begin this day. I thoroughly enjoy Refusing Heaven as well.

By the way, I went to GVSC way back and lived in GR for quite a while after graduating so I came to Holland often – mostly for the independent film theater, and once or twice to the Tulip Festival. Though I skipped the perpetually long line to peek inside the windmill.

Well, thanks again for the poem.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Sam of the ten thousand things said...

"Love lasts by not lasting." - What an amazing line. It's pure Gilbert. He's such a wonderful poet.

7:41 PM  
Blogger greg rappleye said...

Thank you both for stopping by and for your kind comments. There is so much about Jack Gilbert's work that I admire!

Greg Rappleye

10:51 PM  
Blogger Brian Campbell said...

Well, it may be out of print, but you've done us all a service by putting it online.

11:23 AM  

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