Holding Ground springs from two sources–family lore about my great-grandmother’s life in the rural South and symbols found on ritual vessels of prehistoric Goddess societies. Inspiration for these poems came when my great-uncle “Hack” Chapman told me about his mother laying in potatoes, making a ‘potato hill,’ an image I recognized as primal, the pregnant female identified with the harvest and the cycle of birth and death. For the next few years, he told me more stories. From these sessions I filled a spiral notebook, more and more convinced that images once sacred are numinous, even for those who have lost touch with the soil.
“It is the time when farming is the backbone of American life and a woman is left to run the farm and raise her children alone. There is no time for the luxury of grief when more death and disaster are waiting; there is only a mother teaching her surviving children to harvest and sow new seeds, ‘to bury the hurt, layer by layer’ in fields that will one day also claim their bodies. . . . . The woman becomes a metaphor for her hard-won land: ‘She’s her own field,/ never fallow/ for long.’
She never imagined that all the hurt buried in her fields would take root, that one of her great-grandchildren would record in verse what Virginia Woolf defined as ‘the accumulation of unrecorded life.'”
—Leilani Wright, Contest Judge
“Gibson’s lush imagery carries these poems about mundane farm-life to an ethereal level. Whether her subject is boiling molasses or killing hogs, her language shines with a visceral force.”
—Kathryn Parker Milam
Cover art: “singing green,” a pencil drawing by William Gould, Jr.