James Murphy's Reviews > The Great Fires

The Great Fires by Jack Gilbert
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's review
Jun 06, 2010

it was amazing
Read in June, 2010

I've only lately come to Gilbert's poetry. With each book, though, I'm increasingly appreciative of his quiet power. The poems in The Great Fires, even more so than others I've read, are about intense feeling. In that way they have an Asian sensibility about them, like the focused emotion of Japanese novels. Each of these poems examines such a mood or expressed feeling. Sadness seems to permeate them, and loss--Gilbert mentions several times Michiko, the young wife who died very young. Even the poem Gilbert writes about the 13-year old girl aware of her new breasts is tinged with sadness. He knows their taut wpring will one day lead her to the complex confusions of love and need. Gilbert himself says what we feel most has no name. So we're glad he has the verbal power to express what's inexpressible in ourselves. We're grateful, too, for his reassurance that our feelings, whether of love or sadness or some ineffable disquiet, speaks to the special heart of each of us.

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