Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Nipples and grease

The truth is I can’t even remember
her face. I kind of know how strong
her thighs were, and her beauty.
But what I won’t forget
is the way she tore open
the barbecued chicken with her hands,
and wiped the grease on her breasts.

— Jack Gilbert, “Duende”. This is from a Dwight Garner review of his Collected which also says:

Mr. Gilbert is a virtuoso poet of the appetites. “We end up asking what our lives really tasted like,” he observes, and in his poems we find hot bowls of tripe and sardine sandwiches and lentils and cheese and tomatoes and bread and whole hogs on spits. In a poem called “Getting Away with It” he recalls: “Me eating the hot wurst I couldn’t afford,/in frozen Munich, tears dropping.”

(Here are the hot bowls of tripe. All the descriptions I can find in the CP are perfunctory and this doesn’t seem like a lead esp. worth following up on. As usual, Dwight garners the best passages…)


No other major American poet deploys the word “nipples” as often as Mr. Gilbert does.


“I don’t hang out,” he said in a 2005 Paris Review interview. He frequently sounded cranky and goatish in that Q. and A., but perhaps he’s allowed. He was 80 then, and 87 now.