A report on the Jack Gilbert Tribute reading May 12th in NYC has just been posted at the Gilbert site on Facebook, courtesy of Jason Mashak and written by Boni Joi. For those of you as taken with Jack as I am, here it is:
The reading was great! Each reader was full of energy and anecdotes about knowing or being influenced by Jack's work. Jack sat right in the front row. The readers were introduced by Alice Quinn and they were supposed to go in alphabetical order but Alice introduced Linda Gregg first, which was a nice mistake. Each poet read their favorite poems and one or two from the new book "The Dance Most of All." Deb Garrison helped Jack pick the title, it is a fragment from one of the poems in the new collection (sorry I forgot which one). Linda asked Jack how he felt that morning and he said "Grateful." Jim called Jack a famous and great walker, who would walk two miles just for a loaf of bread and some cheese. Jack loves to walk. Henry Lyman said once a neighbor asked Jack "Are you a poet?" and Jack replied "On certain lucky days." Gerald told of days in Pittsburg and a trip they took once that Gerald wrote an essay about.
I will list the readers in order and what poems they read:
A Description of Happiness in Kobenhavn
We Are the Junction
Crusoe on the Mountain Gathering Faggots
Me and Capablanca
The Abnormal is Not Courage
The Plundering of Circe
Don Giovanni on His Way to Hell
Don Giovanni in Trouble
In Views of Jeopardy
Ovid in Tears
Tear It Down
The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart
Winter in the Night Fields
The Lives of Famous Men
Music is the Memory of What Never Happened
Neglecting the Kids
The reading concluded with a taped recording of Jack reading
"The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart."
Can't have a Jack Gilbert post without a poem. Here's a taste of the collection Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh:
Ruins and Wabi
To tell the truth, Storyville was brutal. The parlors
of even the fancy whorehouses crawling with roaches
and silverfish. The streets foul and the sex brawling.
But in the shabby clapboard buildings on Franklin
and Liberty and on Iberville was the invention.
Throughout the District, you could hear Tony Jackson
and King Oliver, Morton and Bechet, finding it night
after night. Like the dream Bellocq's photographs found
in the midst of Egypt Vanita and Mary Meathouse, Aunt Cora
and Gold Tooth Gussie. It takes a long time to get
the ruins right. The Japanese think it strange we paint
our old wooden houses when it takes so long to find
the wabi in them. They prefer the bonsai tree after
the valiant blossoming is over, the leaves fallen. When
bareness reveals a merit born in the vegetable struggling.
Jack's given it all: heart, mind, and soul. Each collection soars higher than the last. You can get Tough Heaven directly from Pond Road Press. It's probably cheaper at amazon, but why not support the small press and go direct. And there is The Dance Most of All, the best new American poetry book I've read this year so far.
Do yourself a favor: get 'em at the library, get 'em at a bookstore, just get 'em.
the sky over my house too
like old timesIssa
translated by David Lanoue