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The Great Fires
The Great Fires


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Jack Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh. He has published Views of Jeopardy, the 1962 winner of the Yale Younger Poets Series, and Monolithos. Both books were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. A third volume, elegiac poems, was bought out, in a limited edition, under the title Kochan. Mr. Gilbert has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

JOYCE'S MOTTO has had much fame but few apostles. Among them, there has been Jack Gilbert and his orthodoxy, a strictness that has required of this poet, now in the seventh decade of his severe life, the penalty of his having had almost no fame at all. In an era that puts before the artist so many sleek and official temptations, keeping unflinchingly to a code of "silence, exile, and cunning" could not have been managed without a show of strictness well beyond the reach of the theater of the coy.

The "far, stubborn, disastrous" course of Jack Gilbert's resolute journey--not one that would promise in time to bring him home to the consolations of Penelope and the comforts of Ithaca but one that would instead take him ever outward to the impossible blankness of the desert--could never have been achieved in the society of others. What has kept this great poet brave has been the difficult company of his poems--and now we have, in Gilbert's third and most silent book, what may be, what must be, the bravest of these imperial accomplishments.