To spend time in the poetry of Margaret Gibson is to be drawn into an especially vibrant kind of stillness. Gibson’s world is full of a remarkably rich quiet—a quiet you might even call inhabited: not the silence of a pristine meditation chamber, but the quiet of rain falling on a mossy roof, or a walk alone in the woods in winter. The sense of stillness is almost shocking, the way it trembles with anticipation. Through precise, tender, and earthy language, through meditations of the cycles of the natural world and our place in it, her poems move us into the presence of the holy. She shows us again and again how the world is haunted, how full of life and longing nature is, how full of mystery and tragedy, if only we have ears to hear. Her poems open up space for that hearing through their stately, attentive rhythms, and also through the unusual gaps she often leaves between words as punctuation. There is something fearful and majestic to be seen in all of life’s cycles, Gibson shows us, whether it’s a coyote eating the body of a fallen stag, the turning over of a muddy garden in early spring, or the long, slow battle between repair and decay in an ancient cottage. This is the wisdom of someone who has lived attentively and deliberately, a gardener, a spouse, a believer, with a long-held love of a particular place. In her poems we see just how ancient is our world, and just how teeming.
Margaret Gibson is the author of nine books of poetry and one prose memoir. Louisiana State University Press has published the poetry, most recently One Body (2007). Other titles, all from Louisiana State University Press, include: Long Walks in the Afternoon, the Lamont Selection, 1982; Memories of the Future: The Daybooks of Tina Modotti, the Melville Cane Award given by the Poetry Society of America, 1986-7; Out in the Open, 1989; The Vigil, a Finalist in 1993 for the National Book Award; Earth Elegy, New and Selected Poems, 1997; Icon and Evidence (2001) and Autumn Grasses (2003), finalists for the Connecticut Center for the Book Award in Poetry in 2002 and 2004. Her memoir, The Prodigal Daughter; Reclaiming an Unfinished Childhood, was published by University of Missouri Press in March, 2008. Gibson has been awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Grant, a Lila Wallace/Reader’s Digest Fellowship, and grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts. She has been awarded two Pushcart Prizes and the James Boatright Poetry Prize. She is Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut. Margaret Gibson grew up in Richmond, Virginia; she now lives in Preston, Connecticut.
Currently, I’m working on a new poetry manuscript, with the working title of Second Nature. It’s a book that’s been coming together steadily since the beginning of 2007. It seems to be shaping up into a four-part book: a long poem about our participation in the natural world, which I prefer to call the “living world,” which begins with the death of my mother; poems grounded where I live, in the woods in Preston, CT, some of which speak through a persona, “Sister Conjure,” all of which focus on the crisis of our impact on the living world, global warming, species extinction, and the like; poems from Patmos, where I lived for a month in the small house that once belonged to the poet Robert Lax, poems deeply aware of the need for spiritual transformation; and a final section which returns us again to the woods of Preston, CT, with a new focus, an exploration of “intimacy.” I expect to be spending much of the spring and summer revising these poems, finishing the manuscript. With two new books just out—One Body, a book of poems, and The Prodigal Daughter, Reclaiming an Unfinished Childhood—I will be doing a series of readings in March and April and then another week in October of 2008. Both books contain work that was published first in Image Journal. I’ll be giving poetry workshops this summer at The Writer’s Center in Chautuaqua, New York, and I’ll be part of the Image Glen Workshops in Santa Fe—my first time there. I’m looking forward to getting a new fence up around our garden and to putting in a garden for the first time in a few years. Gardening time is dream time for me; as the body works to plant and bring forth, so does the spirit. I’ll be keeping a journal, seeing what images appear, holding a finger up in the wind, waiting to see where the spirit blows and bears me.
The Image archive is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.