I heard today that the poet Jack Gilbert died yesterday. Back in the early 1990s, I met him at a writers’ conference in Napa. I remember having had a lovely conversation with him, as well as the reading he gave at a winery one night. Over the years I forgot about him, reading an article here and there mentioning him and praising his work. I didn’t even know he was living in Berkeley, if suffering from dementia can be called living, especially for a poet.
Foraging for Wood on the Mountain
The wild up here is not creatures, wooded,
tangled wild. It is absence wild.
Barren, empty, stone wild. Worn-away wild.
Only the smell of weeds and hot air.
But a place where differences are clear.
Between the mind’s severity and its harshness.
Between honesty and the failure of belief.
A man said no person is educated who knows
only one language, for he cannot distinguish
between his thought and the English version.
Up here he is translated to a place where it is
possible to discriminate between age and sorrow.