Initially associated with the Beats, he left America after winning the Yale Younger Poets Prize with Views of Jeopardy in 1962, eking out a living for many years on Greek islands. His second collection, Monolithos, appeared twenty years later in 1982, but he made his strongest impression on American readers with the late work published in his last two books, The Great Fires (1994) and Refusing Heaven (2005), winner of the prestigious National Book Critics Circle Award.
Transgressions only includes a small selection from Views of Jeopardy but a substantial gathering of work from Monolithos. Both these books have been out of print in the USA for many years and fetch huge prices on the secondhand market. So Transgressions not only introduces a major American poet to UK readers, it also gives them many poems which American readers can't get hold of.
Jack Gilbert writes compellingly about passion, loss and loneliness. His poems are filled with a sense of wonder at existence and with his surprise at finding happiness ñ despite grief, struggle and alienation ñ in a life spent in luminous understanding of his own blessings and shortcomings. His work is both a rebellious assertion of clarity and a profound affirmation of the world in all its aspects.
"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 compassionÖ Gilbert is the rarest of beings: a necessary poet."
"Poetry of constantly surprising beauty and directness. Jack Gilbert resides with the modernist giants of the early century because, among other reasons, he is not intimidated by them."
"The rigor of Gilbert's purpose is matched by the economy of his meansÖ Serious and unflinching, Gilbert is the rare poet who manages to come at the Romantic most effectively from an unrelentingly classical base."
Allen Hoey, American Poetry Review