He graduated from the University of Pittsburgh, where he and his classmate Gerald Stern developed a serious interest in poetry and writing. Later, he received his Master's degree from San Francisco State University in 1963.
His first book of poetry Views of Jeopardy (1962), was quickly recognized and Gilbert made into something of a media darling. "Vogue and Glamour fêted him with photo spreads. Accolades piled on, and audiences lined up to hear Gilbert read.... Views of Jeopardy, slim debut though it was, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Gilbert's literary celebrity seemed assured — until he turned his back on it."
Living on a Guggenheim Fellowship  he toured 15 countries as a lecturer on American literature for the U.S. State Department and lived in England, Denmark and Greece. Nearly the whole of his career after the publication of his first book of poetry is marked by what he has described as a self-imposed isolation. Some have considered this to be a spiritual quest to describe his alienation from mainstream American culture, and others have dismissed as little more than an extended period as a "professional houseguest" living off of wealthy American literary admirers. His books of poetry have been few and far between; however, he has continuously maintained his writing and contributed to The American Poetry Review, Genesis West, The Quarterly, Poetry, Ironwood, the Kenyon Review, and The New Yorker.
Gilbert was a close friend of poet Linda Gregg who was once his student and to whom he was married for 6 years.  He was also married to Michiko Nogami, another former student and a language instructor based in San Francisco, now deceased, about whom he has written many of his poems. He was also in a significant long term relationship with poet Laura Ulewicz during the late 1950s and early 1960s in San Francisco.
Gilbert died at 87 in Berkeley, California.
His work is distinguished by simple lyricism and straightforward clarity of tone.
On April 15, 2013 it was announced that Gilbert's Collected Poems was a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. The Pulitzer jury's citation read:
|“||a half century of poems reflecting a creative author’s commitment to living fully and honestly and to producing straightforward work that illuminates everyday experience with startling clarity.||”|
- 1962 Yale Series of Younger Poets Competition for Views of Jeopardy 
- 1962 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry nomination for Views of Jeopardy
- Guggenheim Fellowship
- Lannan Literary Award for Poetry
- Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts.
- 1982 American Book Award
- 1982 National Book Critics Circle Award
- 1983 Stanley Kunitz Prize for Monolithos 
- 1983 the American Poetry Review Prize for Monolithos 
- 1983 finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
- 2005 National Book Critics Circle Award for Refusing Heaven
- Views of Jeopardy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (Yale Series of Younger Poets), 1962.
- Jack Gilbert. Madison, WI: M. Edelson, [1970?]
- Advance Applications for Pocket Calculators. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: G/L Tab Books, 1975.
- Numbers: Shortcuts and pastimes. Blue Ridge Summit, PA: G/L Tab Books, 1976.
- Monolithos. Port Townsend, WA: Graywolf Press, 1982.
- Kochan (limited edition chapbook). Syracuse, NY: Tamarack Editions, 1984.
- The Great Fires: Poems, 1982-1992. New York: Knopf, 1994.
- Refusing Heaven: Poems. New York: Knopf, 2005.
- Tough Heaven: Poems of Pittsburgh. North Truro, MA, & Washington, DC : Pond Road Press, 2006.
- Transgressions: Selected poems. Tarset, Northumberland, UK: 2006.
- The Dance Most of All: Poems. New York: Knopf, 2009.
- Collected Poems. New York: Knopf, 2012.
- My Mother Taught Me (with Jane McLean; as "Tor Kung"). New York: Traveller's Companion / Paris: Olympia Press, 1967.
- Forever Ecstasy (with Jane McLean; as "Tor Kung"). New York: Ophelia Press, 1968; Paris: Olympia Press, 1971.
- Genesis West volume 1, published in fall 1962, is a celebration of Jack Gilbert's poetry. This volume includes poems by Jack and interview conducted by Gordon Lish.
- Allen Randolph, Jody. Interview with Jack Gilbert. Lannan Foundation: Readings and Conversations Series. VHS. Los Angeles: Lannan Foundation, 1997.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 Penner, John (14 November 2012). "Jack Gilbert dies at 87; unconventional poet knew fame and obscurity". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-jack-gilbert-20121114,0,332360.story. Retrieved 14 November 2012.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 Jack Gilbert, Poets.org, Academy of American Poets. Web.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Meghan O'Rourke, The Recluse, Slate, May 9, 2005, Washington Post Co., Web, Sep. 5, 2012.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Poetry Foundation profile
- ↑ The Pulitzer Prizes | Citation
- ↑ Pultizer Prize listing
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Search results = au:Tor Kung, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Aug. 26, 2012.
- ↑ Search results = au:Jack Gilbert, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, Aug. 26, 2014.
- Jack Gilbert profile & 7 poems at the Academy of American Poets
- Jack Gilbert b. 1925 at the Poetry Foundation.
- Jack Gilbert at American Poems
- Jack Gilbert poems at the New Yorker.
- Audio / video
- Jack Gilbert at YouTube
- NPR:"Jack Gilbert: Notes from a Well-Observed Life" (Poems and audio Interview). April 30, 2006
- "Jack Gilbert". NPR audio interview June 18, 1997
- Jack Gilbert at Amazon.ca
- About Jack Gilbert and The Great Fires, Random House.
- Sarah Fay (Fall/Winter 2005). "Jack Gilbert, The Art of Poetry No. 91". The Paris Review. http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/3196/the-art-of-fiction-no-69-gabriel-garcia-marquez.
- "The Recluse: Rescuing the poet Jack Gilbert from oblivion." at Slate magazine
- Rejoicing With Jack Gilbert
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