Each day leading up to the April 17 announcement of the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards, we highlight one of the thirty-two finalists. Today, we feature
Excerpt from an interview with Dobby Gibson:
“Words aren’t actual things; they just represent things. And in the space between the sign and the signified there’s a lot of room for mystery and misunderstanding, and that’s both the beauty and the power of poetry, and its great frustration, I think.” – Dobby Gibson
With wit and keen observation, the poet puts into conflict private and public selves, civil disobedience and civic engagement, fortunes told and fortunes made. The poems move from perception to perception with the speed of a mind forced moment by moment to make sense of distant war and local unrest, global misjudgment and suspicious neighbors, and the splice-cuts of the media and gliding leaves of the Mississippi River.
Dobby Gibson is also the author of Polar, winner of the Beatrice Hawley Award in 2004. He lives in Minneapolis where he serves on the board of directors of The Loft Literary Center.
“His poetry is deceptive. He’ll have you laughing and then punch you with words. Or he’ll present a poem of contemplation and then jab you with some answers. The ability to use humor, intelligence and a great grasp of language let him careen through a book in many exciting ways.” – Minnesota Book Awards Judge
“Sometimes, titles reveal little about the book they gloss, but in this latest from Gibson, the title provides insight into the material contained within. Literally speaking, a skirmish is a brief exchange between two warring parties that can foretell a larger battle to come. Gibson’s work proceeds by just such allusions, giving readers a certain sense of the poem, only to yank them back into the present by overturning all of the assumptions the poem had built. In this age of rapid change, surprise is a constant, but the surprises offered by Gibson’s poetry are more than gratuitous shock or quaint novelty. Like a photo whose power lies in having its focal point not in the middle of the picture but on its periphery, Gibson demonstrates that it’s not about what you’re seeing—it’s about what you’re ignoring. Mesmerized by skirmishing details, the reader is left to deduce, along with Gibson, that ‘truth is often what you at first don’t trust.’ ” – Chris Pusateri, Library Journal
“These poems are written by a true poet, someone in love with the world and mad at it too, and they are also written by a very particular poet, Dobby Gibson, who is madly in love with the other mysterious inner world each of us possesses and reveals when no one else is looking.” – Mary Ruefle, poet, essayist and professor
“A noirish current runs through Skirmish, which finds fascination in dark, abandoned urban or suburban spaces and unsolvable everyday mysteries. These mostly short, free verse poems hum with gloomy humor and the mood of pregnant anticipation one finds in a Paul Auster novel. The sense of alienation pervades not just the public but also the domestic sphere. Gibson tries the fable, where he finds a comfortable home for his brand of black humor: ‘There was once a roofer who lived/ a full life even though a stake/ had been driven through his forehead.’ He mixes the language of public discourse, science, TV and everyday conversation in a chatty if bleak voice that is both accessible and satisfyingly challenging.” – Publisher’s Weekly
Award winners will be announced at the 22nd Annual Minnesota Book Awards Gala on Saturday, April 17, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, in downtown Saint Paul. The opening reception begins at 6:30 p.m., followed by the awards ceremony at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 and are available by clicking here or calling 651-222-3242.
Have you read Skirmish? What are your thoughts? Did you vote for the Readers’ Choice Award? We welcome your comments!