is very New York. There’s jokes about sandwiches growing lousy in the heat of a rotisserie and then of course the regimen of an endless social reality:


Every performance implies a spotlight,

even if it means driving through the night to get there,

mouth wired open in a grimace

or grin…



These quotes and impressions out of context probably suggest the productions of a weary sophisticate but actually I read Alan’s poem as the product of a very precise writer who couldn’t write a bad line if he wanted to and yet is meanwhile very much a Rousseau-ian whose primordial state is childhood. I think much of his seeming surrealism:




not manners, but one ventricle filled with spiders,

the other with M&M’s



is being performed for the tiny “New York” of a giggling child, either the poet himself or an actual kid for whom poetry is functioning as high entertainment. At heart I think AG’s poem is profound leisure. Though the poet is an informed and willing adult his bohemia or his purpose is to ever freshen the relay of generational exchange. The petit and the grand. Morts (of course) too. In the Gilbert poem one submits to adulthood, one idly watches teevee, one travels, performs the multitude of tasks that constitute one’s station in life. Yet an undercurrent – this recoiling from the absurdities of the flesh forms the bedrock of this poet’s allegiance to the rift between what we do and what we know. So the playground of the mind and the necessity of love are the only real consolations here. Kids like love songs and want to have fun and I think Alan Gilbert is working to maintain precisely that heaven. These are offbeat poems of pleasure and escape. Hear! Hear!

Originally Published: April 30th, 2011

Eileen Myles was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was educated in Catholic schools, graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Boston, and moved to New York City in 1974 to be a poet. They gave their first reading at CBGB's and then gravitated to St. Mark's church where they studied with Ted...