The poetry of Robert Gibb

While researching for this project, I stumbled across the poetry of Robert Gibb. Gibb was born in Homestead and worked in the steel mill, and his poetry reflects both the strength and shuddering loss of the people of Homestead. His words echo a sense of disenchantment that I think rings true for many people who call Homestead their home town. I included some excerpts of his poetry below, as well as a link to a review of his work from the Post-Gazette.

This is home in the loaned house in the city                                                                              Where I was born, north of the river

Whose rusts still tint the opening blossoms           Of the dogwood and bleed through the cast-off

Metals of scrap heaps and corroding sheds.       These days, down there, men can’t even make

The living promised to the bread of their sweat.    It will take some getting used to the dead

Gray light in Homestead, the mill shore as naked  As the shaved skin around a scar.

Time getting used to the Warsaw                                                                                              Of boarded and burned-out stores,

Blocks of rubble where my father’s office stood                                                                       And traffic stopped as the gates clanged down,

The great train of names on the boxcars                                                                                   Came rumbling past. 

–excerpt from poem “The Employments of Time in Homestead” by Robert Gibb, found in The Burning World, copyright 2004 University of Arkansas Press


…Cooled off, we reenter                                                                                                            That kingdom of heat                                                                                                                                                  where the soles                                                                                      Of our shoes start to smoulder,                                                                                                Shirts flower with holes                                                                                                                                                      like small,                                                                                          Dark stars….until, finally, we are                                                                                               Walking on fire                                                                                                                                                    as if born to it,                                                                                                   Burning by our bodies, the candles                                                                                          Of the spine.                                                                                                                                             Even outside                                                                                                             We can smell it, sitting exhausted                                                                                             And smoking                                                                                                                                                   in a last blue of heaven                                                                                      The color of steel.

–excerpt from poem “Entering the Oven” by Robert Gibb, in Origins of Evening, copyright 1998 W. W. Norton

Robert Gibb’s poetry reviewed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette



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