THE BOOK: Girl as Birch
PUBLISHED IN: 2022
THE AUTHOR: Rebecca Kaiser Gibson
THE PUBLISHER: Bauhan Publishing. ( A wonderful publisher to work with. Sarah Bauhan is the daughter of the founder of the press. She works with Henry James, the designer – who is yes, the grand nephew of Henry James. He’s also a dream to work with- responsive and creative.)
SUMMARY: In Girl as Birch, I try to mimics the flexible (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 me 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.
THE BACK STORY: Unlike my first full book of poetry (Opinel, Bauhan 2015) which was a collection of poems that spanned many years and were not written with any particular book in mind…such that it took many tries to formulate an order that honored them – Girl as Birch was an attempt to keep focused, for the most part, on a progression of poems that related to each other and sprang from each other. It took about two years.
WHY WOULD SOMEONED WANT TO READ IT? Why would someone want to read it? Gosh. So many potential niche audiences: girls, parents and brothers and sister of girls, women who grew up in the 60’s, people who are interested in a few “ekphrastic” poems that don’t “describe” the work they interact with, but inhabit it, people who have experienced divorce, people who are intrigued by poems that without mentioning a God, experience one.
Praise for Girl as Birch
“…both restraint and rebellion perform their complicated dance inside this girl, and we witness her, a bud blossoming as the book unfurls, hemmed in by walls and gardens and garter belts but also romping “the terraced vineyards of flirtation” and gaining practice in the art of inuendo… —these poems are arias in which “spores of earth” and “siphoned starlight” comingle, and the result is rich and life-affirming.” —Meg Kearney, All Morning the Crows
“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.” — Kude 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)
AUTHOR PROFILE. Now I live with my husband in New Hampshire at the foot of a wonderful mountain with deer and turkeys and skunks and a few mooses.
I taught poetry writing at Tufts University for 23 years, and happened to have left just a year before the pandemic— which allowed me to devote months to a novel (about which more in a minute).
Here’s the official bio:
Rebecca Kaiser Gibson’s novel, The Promise of a Normal Life Arcade Publishing, is due out Feb. 2023.
Her poetry collections are Girl as Birch, (2022) and Opinel, (2015) from Bauhan Publishing and two chapbooks, Admit the Peacock and Inside the Exhibition.
She is the recipient of fellowships from MacDowell, The Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Vermont Studio Center and The Heinrich Böll Cottage in Ireland. She received the 2008 Fellowship from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach writing in Hyderabad, India, 2011. She is founder and director of The Loom, Poetry in Harrisville, a reading series.
Her poetry has appeared in Agni, Northwest Review, The Massachusetts Review, Slate, Tupelo Quarterly, Harvard Review, Pleiades, and over a dozen other magazines. Rebecca taught poetry at Tufts University for twenty-three years, and lives in Marlborough, NH.
AUTHOR COMMENTS. The insight that unlocked this book for me was the realization that I could refer to that young self of me as a “girl.” Growing up as Women’s Liberation was evolving somehow that term had always seemed demeaning, as though I should at least pretend I never was so helpless or so internally absorbed. Finally I understood that the truth of it was true and that I could claim it. Sample: see my website, http://www.rebeccakaisergibson.com
Girl as Birch
according to a (faulty) credo:
any agile gesture equals allure.
Then, when wind abates
stature regained, a realignment
resilient as a branch
pushed from the path
and springing back.
Girl in the Mirror
Did I finally
for an instant
leave it — leave it?
Had I always been placed to please,
shoulders tight, my hands
in every photo held
carefully, one nestled
as a teacup, in the other?
Neck upright, a stalk, no,
head turned ever so
nor uncalculated for effect ––
left arm lowered
to lap, right
My gestures adjusting
to repeat, reflect, repeat,
deflect in mirrors.
snitching glances, in bistros, car windows, ponds, spoons,
glazed by daily artifice.
stylish, a mannequin
in cantilevered cowboy boots stitched with butterflies
long skirt, shoulder-padded jacket, wide belt, hair angled ––
See me please see me
Eyes on me,
all eyes especially
my own, imagining
Until that sighting, unplanned in dark glass,
at the train station, hair untamed, uncontainable
me, too shiny in black raincoat, untended,
in drizzle. The frizzy spikes of hair jagged,
my too black coat with its inside reversible
flutter of flowerets in green and purple,
too sugary, worse even than the unremitting
shadow, myself, projected, that anyone might see.
Lonely. Empty English side street.
WHERE TO BUY IT:
Bauhan Publishing Trade Paper, $17.00 Publication Date: April 6, 2022 ISBN: 978-0872333338
Contact the author: