Margaret Gibson: Not Hearing the Wood Thrush

NOT HEARING THE WOOD THRUSH, Margaret Gibson. Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 2018, 80 pages, $18.95 paper, https://lsupress.org.

Today I have about a million things to do, but I’m glad the day began with this book. It was like having an hour of quietude, a meditative retreat from busy-ness. Rather than engaging with a world of objects—as so many poets do so well—these poems come at life from a different place, creating almost another world. It’s been a while since I read her Broken Cup, but I believe this book differs even from Gibson’s own earlier work. I like the way the LSU site describes it:

“I look about and find whatever I see / unfinished,” Margaret Gibson writes in these powerful and moving poems, which investigate a late-life genesis. Not Hearing the Wood Thrush grapples with the existential questions that come after experiencing a great personal loss. A number of poems meditate on loneliness and fear; others speak to “No one”—a name richer than prayer or vow.” In this transformative new collection [her thirteenth book], Gibson moves inward, taking surprising, mercurial turns of the imagination, guided by an original and probative intelligence. With a clear eye and an open heart, Gibson writes, “How stark it is to be alive”—and also how glorious, how curious, how intimate.

So, before I rush off (again) to my errands, here is one poem.

The Cry

No longer any wish to give a name
to the one vine
that unfurls its many blooms
continually beside the door,
and whose tendrils
brush lightly at my sleeves,
coming and going. Sorrow daily
changes to wonder, and a cry—
windswept, and yet
particular as the click of a stone
footfall dislodges—
moves throughout space and time.
No hinge or heart-latch to it.
Unsought, it comes to you.
Unbinds and scours.
A residue of all that has been stored
as if in large clay jars
in the inner sanctum of a tomb. And it is
entirely and only what you are. A cry.

—Margaret Gibson

This is a gorgeous poem to read aloud, or for the “mouthfeel,” as some say. I love the line, “No hinge or heart-latch,” and the cascading sounds of “Unsought, unbinds, scours, residue, stored” that fall on the more solid syllables of “large clay jars.”

To learn more about Gibson, visit her webpage.

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