Jack Gilbert, expressive poet, dies
Though Mr. Gilbert published only five books of poetry, not counting collections, in 50 years, he is widely considered one of the best of his generation, and among those working in San Francisco during the poetry renaissance of the 1950s. There is a fierce declarative tone to his work," his editor, Deb Garrison, said by phone from her home in Montclair, N.J. "He's the kind of poet one imagines heating up a can of beans, rather than being on the faculty of a prestigious writing program. Without a high school diploma, he managed to enroll at the University of Pittsburgh, paying his way through as an exterminator, steelworker and Fuller brush man. In the mid-1950s, Mr. Gilbert came to the Bay Area to pursue graduate work in English at UC Berkeley and San Francisco State, where he earned an master's degree in English. "Somebody came up to him and said, 'I heard you're a poet,' and he said, 'On certain lucky days,' " said Lyman, who hosted a long-running poetry program distributed to public radio stations nationwide. About 10 years ago he started experiencing memory loss but he kept at the poetry, publishing two more books - "Refusing Heaven" (2005), which finally won him the National Book Critics Circle Award, and "The Dance Most of All" (2009). In May, Mr. Gilbert attended a Berkeley reading from his "Collected Poems" and seemed to enjoy the tribute of 70 people in attendance, said D.A. Powell, who teaches creative writing at USF.