With a quiet eloquence, the poems in Long Walks in the Afternoon follow “the deep imagination’s long tap into the dark”—inward toward the still and radiant center of the self. But Margaret Gibson’s poetry is not self-serving or isolationist. She writes out of the firm conviction that our personal griefs hld energies that can move is to reach beyond ourselves and join with others in common struggle.
Beginning with poems that struggle against illusion, egotism, and emptiness, the collection progresses to poems that challenge violence—social violence against women, political violence in east Asia and Chilek and in “Radiation,” the violence that still reverberates from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki:
We made the scars and the radiant air.
We made people invisible as numbers.
We did this.
In a final section, the desire to know and claim the self is transformed in a sequence of elegies into “the passion to lose myself in work” and in love and in the world—to be “no one.” The meditative mood of Gibson’s poems becomes a movement against isolation, a wrestle with our roots and common bonds, and a way of challenging the self to be more openly aligned with creative forces, and to speak out against dishonesty, injustice, chaos, and war.
Margaret Gibson is the author of ten books of poems including Long Walks in the Afternoon, a Lamont Selection; The Vigil, a finalist for the National Book Award in Poetry; and One Body, winner of the Connecticut Book Award in Poetry and one prose memoir. A native of Virginia, she lives in Preston, Connecticut.
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