In Girl as Birch, Gibson mimics the flexible (adaptable? too pliant? healthily, if secretly, resilient, then, finally, aligned) motion of a birch in strong wind, as it relates to the options seemingly available to her, growing up as a girl. The poems imitate in form the experiences they evoke. The leitmotifs of red, birches, mirrors, walls enclosing gardens, labyrinths as metaphors for constraint, recur throughout the book. Without being a manifesto, Girl as Birch explores female gender roles with both pliant and uprising imagery and action. Restriction and rebellion, silence and speech, appearance and artifice, passion and repression, the past and being present, buffet and embolden the speaker of these poems. The elastic and varied syntax, pace, music, and the use of rhetoric and wit express deft self-examination. The book moves from serial impressionistic poems of early childhood to discrete lyric poems of memory and experience and on to a sense of emotional, social, spiritual evolution, not resolution.
Advanced Praise for Girl As Birch
“Rebecca Kaiser Gibson’s Girl as Birch is a wonder of lyric compression and subtle music. At times deeply personal, at times nearly mythic, these poems meditate on the complexities of memory and mortality, the fact of the female body, and the lessons of the natural world, cultivated and wild. Here is a poet comfortable with an intimate whisper, alive to nature, and at ease in silence and splendor. These are beautiful poems and I’ll return to them with great pleasure.”
—Kevin Prufer, author of The Art of Fiction (Four Way Books)
“The poems in Rebecca Kaiser Gibson’s Girl as Birch lean away from resolutions and certainties and instead, with astute and lyrical observations, lean into a powerful sense of a mind in action. As the title suggests, the outside world is seen through an inwardness that confers both grace and subtlety (Once, still as July—/lilies, black cove waters—/I hovered in heat/with dragonflies.) As well, many of the poems convey a portrait of a restless intellect communing with worldly—and unworldly—things, often using sonic textures to intensify the experience (Walk west where ghost girls rush/from forsaken life/drawing clouds, no footprints/to open bogs dark sweep). The immense pleasure of these poems arises from their depth of seeing as well as from their mastery of form, image and idea, while the drama that resides beneath the surface infuses the poems with tension and danger. Alive with imaginative swerves, leaps and layered imagery, this is masterful writing—and a joy to read.”
—Joan Houlihan, author of It Isn’t a Ghost if it Lives In Your Chest (Four Way Books)
“It is rare for me to read a book of poetry straight through, one poem after the other, yet that is just what I did with this lovely collection from Rebecca Kaiser Gibson—and then I went back and read it again. I gasped when I got to ‘Lilla, Once’—heard (and felt) her raucous laugh. I love Gibson’s use of the garden and plants, and the color red, bending and swaying and bleeding. My favorite line: “She gathered glossy shells / empty of a larger life.” Gibson writes from the heart and readers should feel favored and grateful that she has shared these treasures.”
—Jude Sales, lead book buyer of Readers Books (Sonoma, CA)
“Like the intimacy found inside a walled garden, Rebecca Kaiser Gibson’s exquisite poems in Girl as Birch meditate on the domain of girlhood, coming of age, and the joys and dangers of life lived as a woman. Her luxurious play with language renders each poem simultaneously fierce and delicate. Her words and voice, “sharp as green apples,” magnified by a relationship to mythology and ekphrasis, remind us of the delight of knowing and rediscovering the self and of our own relationship with the natural world that reveals the private interior spaces we inhabit.”
—Didi Jackson, author of Moon Jar (Red Hen Press)
Rebecca Kaiser Gibson is the author of Opinel (Bauhan Publishing, 2015) and two chapbooks, Admit the Peacock and Inside the Exhibition. A recipient of fellowships from MacDowell, The Heinrich Böll Cottage in Ireland, and the 2008 Fellowship in Poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, she was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach poetry in Hyderabad, India, in 2011. She is founder and director of The Loom, Poetry in Harrisville, a poetry reading series. Her poems have appeared in The Adroit Journal; Agni; Field; The Greensboro Review; Green Mountain Review; The Harvard Review; Ocean State Review; Poems2Go; Salamander; Slate; The Poetry Porch; The Taos Journal of International Poetry and Art; The Tupelo Quarterly, been featured on Verse Daily, and included in two anthologies, Cadence of Hooves, and The Best of Tupelo Press 30/30 Project’s First Year. Gibson previously taught poetry at Tufts University for 23 years. She lives in Marlborough, New Hampshire.