Gibbons Ruark is a poetic naturalist, bending close to his subject to report with precision the complexity of beauty we overlook in our haste. A truly imaginative writer as well, however, Ruark gives back to us not merely mirrored documentation but reflections fully colored by his sight and his spirit; like water and sky, both subject and poet are illuminated in his poems.
Passing Through Customs, a retrospective of thirty years’ work, is arranged in clusters of image, feeling, and thought, like runs of a particular kind of music. The reader moves from two coastal poems, years apart on the calendar of the poet’s career, to poems about family and friends, through shadows and solitudes of elegies, into sunlit homages to the saving grace of art. There are evocations of Ruark’s beloved and strife-torn Ireland, others of Italy’s bounty, portraits of now missed faces, and the abiding presence of his wife. This gallery of words, so strongly affecting, steadies and moves us at once.
Passing Through Customs leads us into the reaches of Ruark’s sensibility, certainly, but also through inherited forms and ceremonies enriching to us all.
Gibbons Ruark’s poems have been previously collected in Rescue the Perishing, Keeping Company, Reeds, and A Program for Survival. A member of the English faculty at the University of Delaware since 1968, he lives with his wife in Landenberg, Pennsylvania.
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