Homestead, Pa.: “The Former Steel Capital of the World.” In this elegant and arresting book of poems, Robert Gibb deftly renders a world of molten steel and red-hot ingots, of lives lived according to the factory whistle, and of a grandfather who “plunged / Like an angel, his body broken / And on fire.” Passing through fire, this book makes plain, is one of the necessary conditions of witness.
These lyrical and devastatingly beautiful poems are powerful in both their ability to evoke the past and in the poignancy of the losses they catalog, beginning with heartbreaking personal losses and extending into communal ones. Indeed, a book so freighted with loss and sadness might have deteriorated into maudlin nostalgia in lesser hands. But Gibb has elevated The Burning World to the level of tragedy, with all the dignity and severity that that word calls forth.
“A redeeming lyricism informs this scrupulously crafted, fiercely elegiac collection. Not since Philip Levine have we had a working-class stiff write such moving poems.”
—Maxine Kumin, Pulitzer Prize–winning poet and author of The Long Marriage: Poems
“Robert Gibb’s new collection continues the memory work of the burning world he has made a career of building—a world of steel mills and urban displacement, hard labor and its heartbreak. This is the poet’s most personal book, filled with family elegy, formal eloquence, and the embrace of those small, luminous, fire-tested things worth saving. Homestead, not far from Pittsburgh, PA, is, as always, the setting, as if an evolving, working lyric narrative were underway, which there is.”
—Stanley Plumly, winner of the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature and author of The Marriage in the Trees