cover image The Origins of Evening: Poems

The Origins of Evening: Poems

Robert Gibb. W. W. Norton & Company, $21 (107pp) ISBN 978-0-393-04644-1

The Pittsburgh evoked in many of these generously elegiac narratives recalls the infernal Eden of the waning Industrial age, ""a city in the confluence"" where the men still walk in groups and drink after their shifts, and a phone call means someone has died. Fueled by memory, Gibb's poems form credible myths in which the poet-protagonist struggles toward redemption among the behemoth-like steel mills and looming mortality. His language, rich with sensory detail, takes up ""The dialect coke and pig iron/ Leave upon the tongue"" to render lurid cityscapes (""the floor crawling/ With rats,/ their metallic claws,/ Eyes bright as rivets...."") that are contrasted with delicate ruminations on the natural world (""The wings almost deciduous,/ Antennae fusty as fronds"" he writes of moths). Other poems directly and engagedly address the human condition: ""There must be some way to enter/ The world and keep on moving into it,// Leaving the old life, rung by rattles,/ Lying there in the dark."" This impulse toward transformation and transcendence pervades this fourth collection (following Fugue for a Late Snow), selected for the National Poetry Series by Eavan Boland, and is familiar enough that not everyone will be easily transported along. But in fusing childhood experience of working life, love and family with current labors and lusts (""Any life where a man/ Cannot go down on his knees,/ Drunk or sober in ecstasy/ Is not worth the pain"") these poems make clear their voracity. (June)