What astonishes

The blog had to take a back seat for the last couple weeks while I set to editing my dissertation. Today we're back with a poem by Jack Gilbert.

Here at the University of Tennessee, Gilbert's The Great Fires is probably the most frequently taught collection in poetry writing classes. And for good reason. (Actually, I think it was used in my first undergraduate poetry writing class.) One of my colleagues here describes it as "the poetry primer."

Anyway, it seems like I am in a bit of Gilbert "whirl" of late. Yesterday, Poetry Daily's featured poem was the stunner "Trouble" from Gilbert's new Collected Poems, and then that afternoon I received snail mail from the Academy of American poets which featured "Horses at Midnight without a Moon."

What are your favorite Jack Gilbert poems? What is it about his work, for you, that makes him so necessary?

photo by Jon Crispin

Horses at Midnight without a Moon

Our heart wanders lost in the dark woods.
Our dream wrestles in the castle of doubt.
But there's music in us. Hope is pushed down
but the angel flies up again taking us with her.
The summer mornings begin inch by inch
while we sleep, and walk with us later
as long-legged beauty through
the dirty streets. It is no surprise
that danger and suffering surround us.
What astonishes is the singing.
We know the horses are there in the dark
meadow because we can smell them,
can hear them breathing.
Our spirit persists like a man struggling
through the frozen valley
who suddenly smells flowers
and realizes the snow is melting
out of sight on top of the mountain,
knows that spring has begun.

Jack Gilbert
from Collected Poems

Click here to purchase Gilbert's Collected Poems via IndieBound.

Other poems by Jack Gilbert posted @ Against Oblivion:
"Michiko Dead"
"Not Part of Literature"
"Finding Something"'
"A Stubborn Ode"
"They Will Put My Body Into the Ground"
"Failing and Flying"
"Doing Poetry"