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There is a certain barrenness to Jack Gilbert’s poetry that I like. After you get past his hang-ups, the glaring problems with his treatment of women, his ego, something immense issues forth from his verses. It’s like the coolness of a streamsmooth stone when you take it into hand, the insistent passage of days fallen into routine, the quiet horror that is mixed with realizing the finite nature of both. There’s nothing frivolous about it, but at the same time it isn’t despairingly sober: it is joyful, warmly incandescent, as it stares Death in the face and asks him directly to please, wait, only a bit longer.

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