By cutting to the truth of our experience, poetry shakes us and awakens us.
Jack Gilbert is nearly finished with his greatest poem. I believe we can hear an allusion to its impending completion in the following lines from "A Brief for the Defense," the first poem in his fourth collection, Refusing Heaven (Knopf, 2005): "If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down, / we should give thanks that the end had magnitude. / We must admit there will be music despite everything." Despite everything, Jack Gilbert has made a stubborn music with his poems and with his life, and this fourth book is his final gift to those who will listen.