Weekly Poem: ‘Highlights and Interstices’

By Jack Gilbert

We think of lifetimes as mostly the exceptional
and sorrows. Marriage we remember as the children,
vacations, and emergencies. The uncommon parts.
But the best is often when nothing is happening.
The way a mother picks up the child almost without
noticing and carries her across Waller Street
while talking with the other woman. What if she
could keep all of that? Our lives happen between
the memorable. I have lost two thousand habitual
breakfasts with Michiko. What I miss most about
her is that commonplace I can no longer remember.

Prize-winning Jack Gilbert died last week at the age of 87 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years. Though he won several major awards and was a well-known figure in American poetry, Gilbert “was something of a self-imposed exile: flunking out of high school; congregating with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Spicer in San Francisco but never really writing like a Beat poet; living in Europe and writing American poetry inspired by Pound and Eliot,” according to the Poetry Foundation.

His many honors include the Yale Younger Poets prize for his 1962 debut “Views of Jeopardy” and a National Book Critics Circle award for “Refusing Heaven” (2005). His verse was known for its spareness and lucidity, and many of his poems deal with personal relationships, love and loss, including the death of his wife, Michiko, of 11 years.

For more on Gilbert and to read several other of his poems, visit the Poetry Foundation.

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