The Lyrical Travelogues of Zbigniew Herbert and Jack Gilbert

Herbert and Gilbert (to my knowledge neither made the acquaintance of the other) both wrote poems with such sweeping intensity, flashes of insight from the present; glimpses of longing toward the past, much like impressionists captured evanescent moments with their brushes. A poem from their hands can send me scrambling into the hills of a Roman countryside or skimming in a vessel on the Aegean Sea. Reminds me of Robert Pirsig's comment about the ancient Greek's view of time: 'They saw the future as something that came upon them from behind their backs with the past receding away before their eyes.' The sense is instantaneous, like a polaroid or street photography, the picture imbued with tones from a lost time. Their poems are haunted by lambent lyrics amid contemporary impressions and historical views. A moment from one of Gilbert's snapshots of the arches in Perugia (from the poem 'For Example' -poignant title-):

... while thousands of swifts turned
in the structures of sun with a sound like glass.
... according to whether bells preempted the dark
or rain ordered the earth …