Need-Fire is a narrative sequence of letters revolving around the 7th century Hild, first abbess of Whitby and her kinswoman and successor Aelfflaed. Little is known of these women beyond the scant pages in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People. The poems begin where history leaves off. The words of these poems, virtually all of them derived from Anglo-Saxon, carry sounds that would have been familiar to Hild and her contemporaries were they to suddenly to reappear among us.
“The poet has undertaken the Herculean effort of giving Hild a voice, in a language we may recognize as authentically reflective of her times. The result is a rich, strange, rough-hewn book, unlike anything I have read this year – indeed, perhaps unlike anything I have ever read.”
—Liz Rosenberg, Bright Hill Press Poetry Award Judge
“Only one who was a meticulous scholar as well as a bold and visionary poet could have written this book. Gibson rescued Hild from the silent set of historical facts that has made up her identity in the past, and presented her as the woman she must have been.”
—Marie Boroff, author of Stars and Other Signs
“Becky Gould Gibson’s Need-Fire is a prodigious feat of historical imagination. . . . Like the bones in the magic reliquary of Gibson’s language that speak in the saga’s final lines, these poems ‘know life to the marrow.'”
— Eleanor Wilner, author of Sarah’s Choice
“What is being celebrated is Need-Fire itself, as if the work had a growing self-consciousness. The consciousness is all the author’s though and what this book ‘gives voice to’ is Becky Gould Gibson’s own struggle to achieve a poetry that has grace and autonomy, that is more than and separate to herself and her opinions and her frustrations and she achieves it with such assurance that the only wonder is, how will she follow this up?”
—Andrew Jordan, author of Ha Ha and editor of Tenth Muse
“These poems are sensual, tender and formally accomplished works. [Gibson’s] use of the approximation of the Old English half-line and her efforts to employ a diction that come as close to the Anglo-Saxon as modern English will allow, all manage to produce in the poems a simplicity of diction that is matched only by the complexity of feeling and sound. . . . This is moving and impressive poetry.”
—Kwame Dawes, judge of the 2008 Brockman-Campell Award given by the North Carolina Poetry Society for the best book of poems by a North Carolina writer published in the previous year
“Fall to Me,” Second Lai from Need-Fire, Forrest Pierce composer. Recorded at Swartout Recital Hall, University of Kansas, November 24, 2009. Sarah Tannehill, coloratura; Michael Kirkendoll, piano.