RIP, Jack Gilbert

A really beautiful poet has passed away at the age of 87, one day after some of us cried helplessly at this LA Times profile:

The visitor holding his arm is the most important person in his life, one of his three great loves, the poet Linda Gregg. Now 70, she has visited regularly from Manhattan since Gilbert’s declining health required his move west in 2009 from Northampton, Mass. Away from him, she speaks of Gilbert alternately in the past and present tense. “Well,” she says, “there are ways in which Jack is not here.” Still, Gregg and others closest to him say his mind and personality, if only remotely accessible, persevere. Steven Rood, another friend and poet, says Gilbert “is acutely aware of what’s going on in his life, including the tragic nature of it. So it’s an ongoing grief.”

I was at a reading of Gilbert and Gregg’s almost ten years ago, decades after their affair ended, and she was feeding him soup during the break, and it was this incredible “evolution of love” moment that has completely eroded my ability to write intelligently about his passing. Please consider purchasing his Collected Poems. Or reading a thoughtful review of the same, or this lovely interview:

Poetry is an unnatural art, as my mother said to me one day. She had been reading some of my poems and said, Jack, why do you do this? What does it mean? And I told her. She said, Well, if that’s what it meant, why did you have to go all the way around the barn to say so? It’s true. So much of that elaborateness is not necessary. I really want to say something to someone that they will feel significantly inside themselves, and if I’m not doing that then I’m wasting our time.

Or go to Greece and have sad sex with someone you are falling out of love with. Any of these things.

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