Jack Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh on February 18, 1925. He was educated in both Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where he later participated in Jack Spicer’s famous “Poetry as Magic” workshop at San Francisco State College in 1957.
Gilbert’s first book, Views of Jeopardy (Yale University Press, 1962), won the Yale Younger Poets Series and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Soon after publishing his first book, Gilbert received a Guggenheim Fellowship and subsequently moved abroad, living in Denmark, England, and Greece. During that time, he also toured fifteen countries as a lecturer on American literature for the U.S. State Department. Nearly twenty years after completing Views of Jeopardy, he published his second book, Monolithos (Knopf, 1982), which won the Stanley Kunitz Prize and the American Poetry Review Prize. The collection takes its title from Greek, meaning “single stone,” and refers to the landscape where he lived on the island of Santorini.
Gilbert is also the author of Collected Poems (Knopf, 2012); The Dance Most of All (Knopf, 2009); Transgressions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books, 2006); Refusing Heaven (Knopf, 2005); winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Great Fires: Poems 1982–1992 (Knopf, 1996).
About Gilbert’s work, the poet James Dickey said, “He takes himself away to a place more inward than is safe to go; from that awful silence and tightening, he returns to us poems of savage compassion.”
Gilbert’s other awards and honors include the Lannan Literary Award for Poetry and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
Gilbert was the 1999–2000 Grace Hazard Conkling Writer-in-Residence at Smith College and a visiting professor and writer in residence at the University of Tennessee in 2004.
Gilbert died on November 13, 2012, in Berkeley, California, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s.