Contentment is not something we often prize in writers. For better or worse, once an author finds solace—no matter the amount or kind—we judge them differently, at least as compared to the more rebellious, unruly versions of themselves we previously encountered. And the most famous writers, of course, never make it out or back—Arthur Rimbaud, Anne Sexton, John Berryman, Sylvia Plath, Jack Kerouac, etc., etc., etc.
All of which is to say that Dobby Gibson’s new collection of poems It Becomes You are of the type that both grasp and grapple with this conception. Such a notion is made clear from the start; the first poem in the book, “From Parts Unknown,” asserts:
What’s undone is done.
Truancy has lost its allure.
I’m finally content to sit here
and use some of the few words
I know to mark the present
as it slides silently into the past
and assumes the mantle
of the spent moment.
These are, clearly, not the declarations of a youthful provocateur. But nor are they the wizened musings of a writer who has come to the end of his/her days , thus feeling beholden to reflect on the actions and mis-actions that have now passed for his/her life. Instead, they are the short, wrought proclamations of a poet that is willing to cede the fact that so much of what we exist in is culled “From Parts Unknown;” much later, in the penultimate poem in the collection “Postscript,” Gibson writes:
Even as the sun rises,
the darkness approaches.
You are the monster of your own campfire story,
and the telling of it
has been your life’s noblest deed.
You can’t bear to be alone,
but this is the best evidence you have
that you’re still here.
In a charming café a thousand miles away,
a couple sits across from one another
and reads the news in silence.
It’s up to you to choose
what happens next—it always has been—
and it’s okay to choose not much.
Some ice snaps in a glass.
How still the world is.
Not much. This isn’t a defiant statement re: how to live or not live one’s life. Instead, it’s one borne out of sheer necessity, out of cherished routine. “…I am trying to be a decent middle-class father, / which requires living close to adequate schools/ and inexpensive packaged goods” Gibson writes in “What Follows Us Now Must Soon Enough Be Carried.” Father or not, this sentiment rings true for the majority of contemporary American poets, many of whom are also members of the middle-class and, out of need if not desire, also frequent consumers of “inexpensive packaged goods.” Some fervent systematic derangement of the senses is not, in all honesty, what most (but not all, of course) American poets writing today are concerned with.
Although never overtly, It Becomes You thus accepts this belief at face value, furthermore asserting that it could not—should not—be any other way. Posterity is for ghosts and ghosts alone. To be alive today and tomorrow can only be enough.