Poem of the Week | August 13, 2018

This week we are delighted to present a poem by “Gil Orlovitz, poet,” by Gerard Malanga. Malanga has published twelve books of poetry, including Whisper Sweet Nothings & Other Poems (Bottle of Smoke Press, 2017) and  recently completed his autobiography, In Remembrance of Things Past. His work has appeared in Poetry, Raritan, Yale Review, Harvard Review, Paris Review, and the New Yorker. He lives with his three cats in the shadow of the Catskills in Upstate New York.


Malanga says of this work,

“‘Gil Orlovitz, poet’ came to me in a dream, or rather he visited me in a dream which resulted in the poem. In the late 1950s through the early ’60s, he was this ubiquitous poet whose works appeared in magazines big and small and then seemingly dropped out of sight and died in 1973 at the age of fifty-five. His work literally dropped off the radar. No posthumous books existent. As a young poet we corresponded, and I met him only once which is partly what this poem is about; and this is my way of telling him that he’s not forgotten. His work can be read on the Poetry Foundation website and on his Wikipedia page.”


Gil Orlovitz, poet


How many opening lines have I attempted and discarded and still

I haven’t been brought closer to you,

to your personality, to the way you looked,

kind of disheveled, crusty at the edges,

maybe in need of a haircut even

is the way I remotely remember you,

though my memory is mostly faulty pretty much so.

The why and wherefore of our one and only encounter

I wanna say, c. ’61 or ’62, at most.

Not the après of spring or early fall, après-ski

of this or that.  Your name immersed

in every little magazine I turned to.

Had you one of your own?  I can’t recall.

Did you live on the Upper West Side for long,

or is that also a mistaken memory?

Why those grey and gloomy skies

I associate with you?

Why those elusive heavens

when stepping out from the “D” train stop at West 4th

to catch up with you?

Why am I in such a rush to know more?

And then your presence or your presences stopped suddenly.

Everything about what I didn’t even know about you

shrunk from those early clues.

This plunge into late 19th-century Mallarmé-style obscurité

and you were heard from no more.

It was as if you turned into this poète maudit

without a trace or a history, without a footnote even,

as the traffic snarls its way past all those crenelated lampposts,

those ghostly dins and twilights.