“There is an old Sufi riddle, the answer to which is, ‘Someone whom no wine consoles.’ Like Gertrude Stein, I don’t know the question, but I feel Margaret Gibson is phrasing it in this book. The longing here is the desert longing, or soul-clarity, a transparence that accept no winey consolation, not even from the night sky, but does find water, finally, and love, a way of being ‘at rest in the visible’” —Coleman Barks
The lyric and meditative poems Margaret Gibson gives us in Out in the Open are works of contemplation and self-inquiry. “In the long journey to be other than I am / I have struggled and not got far,” she writes. Sometimes the journey takes the poet literally out in the open—the mountains, the desert, the fields, the wood. At other times, the journey, the search for vision and for truth, begins a moment’s notice in more familiar, domestic surroundings.
I lift the glass
turn it slowly in the light,
its whole body full of light.
Suddenly I hold everything
I know, myself most of all,
Waiting for a grasp of permanent unity and clarity, the poet turns the act of waiting into a discipline that enables the obstructions encountered (desire, fear, ambition, death, disharmony) to become teachers. “Meeting others we meet ourselves,” one poem says, and whether the other is a love, or someone dying, a former Nazi pilot, or a blind woman in Zagorsk, there is self-meeting and, sometimes, a deep recognition of something beyond, and yet within, self.
At the core of what I am,
in that sacred space, light
does its work, as it will
without my consent
or blessing—and better so.
Echoes of Taoist, Buddhist, and Christian thinking haunt the mind in these poems, although the vision arrived at in the last poems is syncretic, an existential clarity in which struggle of wills is momentarily stilled.
The wind breathes light
into our bones—turning stars
into power we can touch, impluse
we can follow of tell, teaching love—
for that is what we are.
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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