Poet Of The Week

Robert Gibbons

     December 2–8, 2013

Robert Gibbons moved to New York City in the summer of 2007 in search of his muse—Langston Hughes. Robert has featured in many venues around New York City as well as in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Florida. He most recently has offered his poetic performances in such places as Cornelia Street Café, the Church of the Village, the Saturn Series, Perch Café, Barnes and Noble, Stark Performances, Otto’s Shrunken Head, Poets on White, Nomad’s Choir, Taza de Café and many others. Robert has been published in Uphook Press, Three Rooms Press, Stain Sheets, Brownstone Poets Anthology, Dinner with the Muse, Cartier Street Review, Nomad’s Choir and the Palm Beach Post. Additionally, Robert has taken classes with Cave Canem and the 92Y and has studied under master poets such as Cornelius Eady, Marilyn Nelson, Kimiko Hahn, Nathalie Handal, Linda Susan Jackson, Kevin Young and Kwame Dawes. Robert just released his first collection of poetry published by Three Rooms Press, Close to the Tree.

the lost poem

(for Christian Houge)

man or manmade
extrovert search knowledge
introvert search in site
lands escape
on Spitsbergen
past seven years
ten trips
in toto

man and man made
maybe urban eyes have seen the end
we know no more than the bats
only the up dose not the utmost
distance we imagine in space the utter
impossible almost unbelievable
that bridges the unknown from Khov
can I say I really believe when

I have never been given
the opportunity to explore the depth
of my conscious to read Carl Jung
or Sigmund they demonize Nietzsche
they want me to feel the passion
the glorification of conquistadors
or Cousteau regale me in the drama
of conquer I am insignificant
as a small pox pustule you forget
the Taino or Julia de Burgos
the Rio de Loiza Grande calls me
in this distance

maybe discovery is finished for me
I decide that I am in a trap in a maroon
beneath the Earth in Jamaica with mangoes
and dreadlocks I am a trap like rodents
in the urban scape and city streets now
too see another world within our world

the antennae peers through snow
as if to examine the precipitation’s flux
the piercing of a balloon or pillow
to deflate the inflation to run places
the electric cord is near water
and caused an interruption

near snow caps and bundles
funnel-age are rugged
will crack like bones
of ancient reliquaries
holding pressure burns
deep in its pockets
holding on to its coins
this natural slot machine
with spit violently
stingy in its reserves
for another generation

big ball snow cone
sitting atone fresh flake
as if to mimic the real
the natural true science
can it be replicated
discover all the answer
are there questions
never answered
there is space
still to be filled

do not want to reach the outside
rather clothe myself within
until I find the answer
because of this interruption of traffic
crash confusion of misinformation
only alerts of the anxious
the unconscious the mission-driven
the fixtures on this landscape
I do not need a sign from the outside
only within the conscious

far a part but so similar
they are built alike
birth from the same canal
identical yet fraternal
symbiotic yet symbolic
I am different
from where I live

Tell us about the making of this poem.

I became infatuated with Christian Houge’s work when I saw some of his photographs online about Antarctica. I immediately emailed him to tell him that I enjoyed his work and he emailed me back and said, “Thank you.” Antarctica attracted me because it is a place I have never been either physically or emotionally. So this was the perfect metaphor to explore. It was like breaking into new ground, like the discovery of ten thousand lakes beneath its ice. This is important for me as a risk-taker. The whole geography surrounding this massive Gondwana is distant, exotic and romantic. So this poem started out as observation of the physical and then transmuted into a sort of metaphysics.

What are you working on right now?

I am still trying to figure what’s next for me. Maybe a retreat, writing colony, MFA or habitation, but whatever it is, it is always fierce. In poetry there are many choices, but as I mature, the aim is high. The aim is always to develop and associate with the kinds of people that support my work.

What’s a good day for you?

A good day for me would be morning exercise, a morning walk and reading before seven. I read three books simultaneously, so my rigorous daily routine, if thrown off by minutes, will upset the balance of the rest of the day. I struggle, though, not to take myself so seriously. Although pursuit of the literary life is nothing but serious.

How long have you lived in Brooklyn? What neighborhood do you live in? What do you like most about it?

I have lived in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn for the past five years. It is convenience-convenience-convenience.

Share with us a defining Brooklyn experience, good, bad or in between.

I cannot point to a specific defining moment, but if I had to, that one summer I took a job at the Louis Pink Houses in East New York. I had about twenty children that I had to teach song, theater and poetry. It was the best job I ever had.

Favorite Brooklyn poet(s), dead and/or alive?

Since Langston Hughes lives in Harlem, I have to gravitate towards Richard Wright. Every time I see the signs that say Lefferts Avenue I think of him. But, there is no need for obligation or categorization–I hear from many voices. To say Whitman would be usual, but I do admire some of the work. I had the honor to be the featured reader and lead a workshop at Whitman’s birthplace in Huntington, Long Island. But there are others that I admire such as Crane, Auden, McCullers, Bowles, Mailer, Capote, and Alice Dunbar Nelson, who taught in Brooklyn before marrying the iconic Paul Laurence Dunbar. I am also discovering the work of Rolf G. Fjede. As Colson Whitehead said, “I write in Brooklyn, get over it.” Colson is one of my idols.

Favorite Brooklyn bookstore(s)?

I spend a lot of time at the Community Bookstore and the Barnes and Noble on 7th Avenue, but most of my reading is done at the Brooklyn Public Library on Grand Army Plaza. When I am at home I get involved in domestic affairs. So the trip to the bookstore or the library is purpose-driven.

Favorite places to read and write in Brooklyn (besides home, assuming you like to be there)?

That would be the bookstore or the library. On the good day maybe the Neptune Statue at Grand Army. I love the mist on my face.

Favorite places to go in Brooklyn not involving reading or writing?

I am a visitor to the Brooklyn Museum, the Botanic Garden, and the Chocolate Room on 5th. I love the character of the streets.

Last awesome book(s)/poem(s) you read?

I just completed the biography of Ralph Ellison by Arnold Rampersad, A Writer’s Space by Eric Maisel, PhD and Invisible Poets by Joan R. Sherman.

Fill in the blanks in these lines by Whitman:

I celebrate diversity,
And what I am you should recognize,
For every breath utters me as good as you.

If you have time, write a nine-line poem using these end-words (in whatever order) from Jay Z’s “Brooklyn Go Hard”: father, Dodger, jack, rob, sin, pen, love, Brooklyn, Biggie.

Jay Z
the father of Marcy
go harder
jack pens the Dodger
the love of Biggie’s
billboard on Lafayette
the Mocada of Hanson
our love for color
and not sin
“I am writing Brooklyn, get over it.”

Why Brooklyn?

I am not sure why Brooklyn, but if I had to say, it is because I shifted. I found myself most of the time an outsider. I found myself misunderstood. I found myself without name or station or vocation or ambition. I found myself a wanderlust. I found myself in Brooklyn until I find myself.