Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror


Poems by Stephen Gibson
82 pages
5 ½” × 8 ½”
978-1-68226-029-6 (paper)
February 2017


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Winner of the 2017 Miller Williams Poetry Prize

“Shows this exceptional poet at his rhyming best.”
Billy Collins

Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror presents the mirror that reflects not always what is, but what is desired, or not desired. In the opening poem, the speaker, Diane Arbus, looks at her very early pregnant self and asks, “Why would I bring you into this world?” This book answers that question, or tries to: the world is what it is as we try to live as our best selves in that world. But that knowledge of the world is hard and has consequences, and not in the abstract, as Gibson’s poetry dynamically shows.

Employing new formalism, Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror examines historical, familial, and personal pasts as those pasts continue into the present, reminding us, as Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”

Stephen Gibson taught for thirty-two years at the Belle Glade Campus of Palm Beach State College. His previous poetry collections are The Garden of Earthly Delights Book of Ghazals, Rorschach Art Too, Paradise, Frescoes, Masaccio’s Expulsion, and Rorschach Art.

“Gibson presents a series of clear formalist poems, each organized around a different kind of patterning. A series of eight seven-line poems—each in the rectangular shape of a painting—examines the life and art of Pierre Bonnard. But the focus is Marthe de Méligny, Bonnard’s lover, model, and eventually, his wife. The eroticism of Marthe washing her feet in a bathtub or being submerged in it naked is balanced by the mention of the objects in the painting where ‘everything alive . . . is dead.’ Add to this grouping an intricately successful pantoum about Diane Arbus, along with my favorite, a twenty-seven-line monorhyme (a tour de force by the way) written in reaction to a photograph of Hermann Göring’s suicide. The radical subjects of Arbus (also a suicide) and SS Commander Göring are brought under control by the imposition of form. The resulting tension shows this exceptional poet at his rhyming best.”
Billy Collins

“If, as Picasso said, ‘Art is the lie that reveals the truth,’ then Stephen Gibson is on a one-man mission of illumination as he turns his gaze on photographs, canvases, and human history with its wars, murders, and transcendent beauty. Gibson’s voice is unrelenting but tender. . . . and you can’t help but say—Yes, this is our world as seen through the eyes of a human being. . . . A beautiful collection.”
Barbara Hamby, author of On the Street of Divine Love: New and Selected Poems

“Though the poems of Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror are drawn to the dark—historically, artistically, personally—Gibson’s mission is to bring light . . . and with this collection he takes his place among the few poets who can be called necessary. I don’t know when I’ve been as moved and disturbed by poetry as when reading and rereading this eloquent and arresting self-portrait.”
R.T. Smith, author Outlaw Style

“As Stephen Gibson’s poetry collections . . . continue to win award after award . . . he is emerging as the most accomplished formalist of his generation. W. H. Auden, with whom Gibson was acquainted as a young man, would be proud— . . . in Self-Portrait in a Door-Length Mirror, he writes in full command of his subject and its formal expression.”
Ed Falco, author of Wolf Moon Blood Moon

“I gasped halfway through the first poem in this book . . . and I don’t think I really started breathing again until I’d finished this extraordinary collection. Everything here is just a little more textured, a little more real, as in the photos of Diane Arbus . . . who drifts in and out of these pages . . . herself a haunted beauty who shows us how beauty haunts. . . . I wish I had written [these poems] myself.”
David Kirby, author Get Up, Please

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