The transformation of personal grief into environmental grief was a recurring message in an all-school poetry reading by Margaret Gibson on Feb.27.
Gibson, a professor emerita at the University of Connecticut and a nationally and internationally renowned poet, visited the school Feb. 26-28 as part of the Westminster Poet Series, which began in 1999. Each academic year, the school welcomes a poet to campus for two-day visits, which includes a reading and class visits. Gibson lives in Connecticut and is currently finishing a three-year appointment as the Poet Laureate for the State of Connecticut during which time she chose as her focus “Poetry and the Environment during Climate Crisis.”
During her reading, Gibson stressed the interconnectedness of all things: death and life, human nature and the natural world. She read poems from her latest trilogy, reflections and observations that chronicle the diagnosis of her husband, the writer David McCain, with Alzheimer's disease; the progression of the illness; and his passing and how it also reflects our tenuous and symbiotic connection to the natural world.
In light of global climate change, she urged students to have the courage to go out and make changes, to act. The emphasis of her recent work, she said, “is to write more about the interdependence of the inner and the outer world.”
It is illustrated in her poem “It Doesn’t Take Much,” a reflection about finding an injured frog on her doorstep. In the final verses, she reveals how the frog bounced back and was returned to its environs. She ponders whether it was dropped by a hawk, or whether it is a harbinger?
Or is the dead frog an ambassador
sent from the wetland world?
I lift it gingerly, the frog still
limber, no rigor mortis,
and I put it aside, in a paper bag,
to take out later for burial—
I have a dog with a keen nose.
But when I come for it, the paper bag
is rustling, is jumping—
And so I carry the frog
far down to the pond’s edge
and settle it into the shade of the cattails.
When death arrives on your door stone,
you think about it.
When death turns out to be life, injured life,
And turn back to your own.