Margaret Gibson, the Connecticut Poet Laureate, was brought to Barnes and Noble Thursday for a Creative Sustenance Poetry Reading as a benefit for the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic, to which the audience was invited to give donations.
Ray Aramini, a board member for the soup kitchen, opened the night by explaining the overwhelming importance of feeding the hungry. He said he once had a mother and son donate a dollar to the soup kitchen, because they used to have to eat there and wanted to help others like others had helped them, even though they were still fairly poor.
Gibson’s new poem “Always an Immigrant” used repetitive language to create a melodic sound. It surrounded the idea of an “immigrant heart” and the many colors, backgrounds and backstories each immigrant heart may have. After she read her poem, she said there are 70 million immigrant refugees in the world, and this number will only grow with the evolving climate crisis. She said that global warming is a huge theme in her work.
“I thought they were really good. Her description was really tactile, I could really visualize what she was saying. I also really liked her poems about climate change,” Leyla Arica, a third-semester graphic design major said. “I think that’s such a modern thing to be writing about, and I think it needs to be written about, especially in the way that she did it toward the end, making it more angry and making us want to change what we’re doing.”
Gibson’s poem “Global Warming” likened nature to both a lover and an ice cream treat. She said the phrase “because” repeatedly to list all the parts of nature that are being destroyed. She also listed the scientific names of different parts of nature, giving the poem an other-worldly feel, even though it is about our own planet.
“Because we taste the words and they stick in our throats,” Gibson said.
Gibson’s poem “The Glass Globe” lends its title to her new book. It’s based on a blown-glass globe she loved in childhood and has since been bequeathed. Her depiction of the globe is both magical, in that it is described as floating, as well as firmly nailed into the realm of the manmade, as she explains exactly how it was blown. Although the globe is fragile, it appears immortal, outliving the relative that had given it to Gibson in the first place and all the friends that had attended her wedding. In the broken world of her poem, the globe, even when cracked, is the only thing that holds together.
Gibson’s poem “Black Snake” is based on the black snakes that infest her house. Her description of the snake is curious, as it brings the listener into the narrator’s mind as well as the mind of the snake as it coils. The poem reflects the narrator’s curiosity of what it would mean to be a snake, like how it would feel to be a continuous throat.
Gibson treated the audience to her impression of a coyote, barking and whimpering to the audience, before diving into her poem “Coyote.” Like “Black Snake,” this piece is dedicated to the creatures she cohabitates with in her house in the woods.
“I loved the poems,” Kelly Rafferty, a seventh-semester English major said. “I loved the connections to nature, particularly the current climate environment. I especially liked how they started off sort of optimistic and they kind of transitioned to this dark, broody territory.”
Gibson’s poem “Riverkeeper” centers on the narrator listening to the river from their household while finding kinship in its gurgling. She connects the flow of the river to the flow of memories, with its seamless procession. This poem connects again to global warming and how the pollution of a river will lead to the pollution of the mind.
“I am listening to the river outside while also listening to the river inside,” Gibson said.
She concluded the night with the poem “Irrevocable,” which is an elegy for the planet. She likened the death of the Earth to the death of her late husband, whose body she ceremonially washed after he died. She lists parts of the planet, natural and manmade — both altered by global warming — and describes washing them all clean. Technology, industry, religion, urban and rural life, weapons, instruments, bits of trash, dead fish, chemicals and all signs of life are to be washed away, abandoned.
“And the great Earth turns,” Gibson said.
Rebecca Maher is a senior staff writer for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.