Notable Quotes
Browse quotes by subject | Browse quotes by author


American poet (1925- )

The heart lies to itself because it must.

JACK GILBERT, "Naked Except for the Jewelry"

We are resident inside with the machinery,
a glimmering spread throughout the apparatus.
We exist with a wind whispering inside
and our moon flexing. Amid the ducts,
inside the basilica of bones. The flesh
is a neighborhood, but not the life.

JACK GILBERT, "Kunstkammer"

One of the great dangers is familiarity.

JACK GILBERT, The Paris Review, fall/winter 2005

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.

JACK GILBERT, "Failing and Flying"

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite.

JACK GILBERT, "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart"

You have to write a poem the way you ride a horse—you have to know what to do with it. You have to be in charge of a horse or it will eat all day—you’ll never get back to the barn. But if you tell the horse how to be a horse, if you force it, the horse will probably break a leg. The horse and rider have to be together.

JACK GILBERT, The Paris Review, fall/winter 2005

We must have the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.

JACK GILBERT, "A Brief for the Defense"

I ask myself what
is the sound of women? What is the word for
that still thing I have hunted inside them
for so long? Deep inside the avalanche of joy,
the thing deeper in the dark, and deeper still
in the bed where we are lost. Deeper, deeper
down where a woman's heart is holding its breath,
where something very far away in that body
is becoming something we don't have a name for.

JACK GILBERT, "Happening Apart from What's Happening Around It"

You can't go to Paris anymore; it's not there. Greece and Japan aren't there anymore. The places I've loved no longer exist.

JACK GILBERT, The Paris Review, fall/winter 2005

We are all burning in time, but each is consumed
at his own speed.

JACK GILBERT, "Burning (Andante Non Troppo)"

I failed high school; I got into college by mistake. I failed freshman English eight times. I was interested in learning, but I wanted to understand too, which meant I was fighting with the teachers all the time. Everybody accepted the fact that I was smart but I wouldn’t obey. I didn’t believe what they said unless they could prove it.

JACK GILBERT, The Paris Review, fall/winter 2005

I have been easy with trees
Too long.
Too familiar with mountains.
Joy has been a habit.
This rain.


The hard part for me is to find the poem—a poem that matters. To find what the poem knows that’s special. I may think of writing about the same thing that everyone does, but I really like to write a poem that hasn’t been written. And I don’t mean its shape. I want to experience or discover ways of feeling that are fresh. I love it when I have perceived something fresh about being human and being happy.

JACK GILBERT, The Paris Review, fall/winter 2005

I dream of lost vocabularies that might express some of what we no longer can.

JACK GILBERT, "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart"

You have to understand I didn't visit places; I lived places. It makes all the difference in the world.

JACK GILBERT, The Paris Review, fall/winter 2005

Can you understand being alone so long
you would go out in the middle of the night
and put a bucket into the well
so you could feel something down there
tug at the other end of the rope?

JACK GILBERT, "The Abandoned Valley"

I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

JACK GILBERT, Failing and Flying


Life Quotes

Love Quotes

Death Quotes

God Quotes

Wisdom Quotes

Hope Quotes

Success Quotes

Women Quotes

Happiness Quotes

Shakespeare Quotes