Saturday, March 12, 2016

Harvest the Dirt - Wil Gibson (Great Weather for MEDIA)

Today's book of poetry:
Harvest the Dirt.   Wil Gibson.  Great Weather for MEDIA.  New York, New York, 2015.

Harvest the Dirt, Wil Gibson, front cover border grey

Spend some very enjoyable time reading Harvest the Dirt by Wil Gibson and you might be inclined to think that he is one dark and rough piece of bark.  

That is until you read his terribly tender ode to Kurt Vonnegut Jr., "So It Goes."  There is almost always an exception to the rule.

Gibson's rules might run along the lines of the "drink 'em, smoke 'em, crank 'em when you've got them" school.  These poems describe a difficult life of great turmoil and torment, a road full of bad turns and bad choices.

So how does Gibson turn this into such bittersweet poetry?

What  I should've said to the older gentleman
who happened into the bar during a poetry
reading and stayed for the duration:

I saw you nod in approval with the first bent heart poem you
heard. Was that the first time you heard someone else speak your
mind? I saw that you dropped a twenty dollar bill in the passed
hat payday, so I assume the open wounds on stage were enough
for you. I saw my Granddaddy nod the same way the first time I
read him a poem. He knew the poem was about him and smiled
a struck match to burn away the lost cause from the dust bowl
lump in my throat. In your open mind I saw Granddad's pride. In
your accidently art-filled evening you gave back to me a reason for
writing I thought I had lost or forgotten.


Gibson is a romantic, no doubt about that, but he doesn't give in to it easily.  It's all kicking and screaming, coming across the finishing line on fire sort of stuff.  

Harvest the Dirt is earthy stuff, an eight-ball, dime bag, bobo huffing earthy stuff that hits the nail, repeatedly, right on its big flat head.  Gibson is almost polymorphous in his range of romantic follies. He is affectionate about: certain country singers, Tom Waits, Bobbie Gentry, his family, the American South, meth labs...

Last Man Standing

I refused to smoke or snort meth the first time I did it. The more
experienced tweakers put it in toilet paper and told me to swallow
it. When my stomach acid dissolved the thin wood pulp, the
explosion of crank into my system burned a hole from my hips to
my mouth. Each organ etched its name into my skin with a cattle
prod. Lightning shot through my intestines.

I ran to the bathroom and shit out everything I had ever eaten in
my entire life. I shit out my mother's breast milk, and the amniotic
fluid I floated in for nine months. I shit out things I thought about
eating. I shit our everything I had seen other people eat and all the
food in all the commercials I had ever seen. I vowed to never do
this horrible drug ever again.

Twenty minutes later I had a straw to my nose and was being
passed a freshly packed light bulb to smoke from. I inhaled the
sweet smell of impending snow and hot chemicals. My head
spun like the world around me. I didn't eat, sleep, or do anything
remotely sane for the next fifty-three hours.

The next seven years were facsimile nights and carbon paper days.
Everything was broken light bulbs, broken promises, broken
promises, broken promises, broken hearts, and full-blown crazy.
Most things were broken. I lived awake and died in my dreams
every rare time I slept. I still have trouble sleeping.


Wil Gibson's Harvest the Dirt is the meat section of the grocery store, pure bloody protein.

Today's book of poetry's morning read was raucous to say the least.  Milo has seemingly overcome any trace of his previous shyness.  He can't wait to get up in front of us and read and he has become quite good at it.  Many mornings now we simply let him read to the rest of us.  Today everyone wanted to get in on it.  Kathryn insisted on reading the Vonnegut poem, twice.

Whole. South. Side.

Dust bunnies scratched weak scream claw marks down
the hallway.

No milk in a new house,
third this year, another cupboard empty.
June is a terrible month to move,
made easier when you lack clothes and furniture.
The new cockroaches were smaller.
The new neighbors mutter "poor white trash"
under their breath, never to our faces.
They don't mean it as hurtful or angry,
they only mean we were pitiful.
They smile with sad eyes and treat us like
a man whose wife cheats on him.

There is no way to tell someone they have been forgotten.


Gibson takes it all on in Harvest the Dirt - poverty, race, violence, drugs, country music and so on.   He does it with the slow grace of a poetic Richard Pryor.  Saint Richard of Pryor never passed a pipe he didn't like and was the best straight-up stand-up there has ever been.  We here at Today's book of poetry like to make big proclamations just to see who is listening.

Wil Gibson is a slap and a caress, not always in equal portions.  Poetry like this can make you squirm in your seat and that is a good thing.  A damned good thing.

Wil Gibson by Vanessa Vrtiak
Wil Gibson

Wil Gibson was born from a good idea and a bottle of bourbon and raised in some of the poorest communities northern Illinois and eastern Arkansas have to offer. He is a proud, mistake-prone, father of four.

Harvest the Dirt is the fuck-you-listen-to-me reminder that life is real, and raw, and constantly in a state of push and pull and break. Gibson doesn’t need metaphors to talk about drugs and despair and life. There’s no hidden meaning. This is not a collection of self-help pieces. He’s not going to tell you that anything will ever be better. What Gibson will do though is craft a guide of real-world, worst-case scenarios, so that maybe you’ll give a damn about yourself, or the world around you, or art, or whatever it is to which you yearn to cling. This is Jim Carroll and William Burroughs meets George Carlin and Sam Kinison in a dark alley for an I’ll-raise-you-a-story kind of raw. This is not a book of poetry; this is an experience.—Chris Margolin, The Poetry Question
Harvest the Dirt is a gritty, relentless testament to the survival song that is Wil Gibson. Each poem is a bloody ride out of the city that birthed you; a psalm in the name of recovery; an open window on a stormy day somewhere in the middle of this country. This book is filled with a man’s truth and, while it isn’t always pretty, that truth never apologizes.—Carrie Rudzinski, author of The Shotgun Speaks and The History of Silence

Here, now, in 2015, there is an eye on race, southern culture, and the relationship between the two that is as focused as I remember it being. That eye is large, and general. Wil Gibson’s Harvest the Dirtis specific, and on the street. But no less large. Harvest the Dirt is proof that country music doesn’t need a fiddle, a pedal steel, or even sounds at all. All country music needs is a heart breaking or a heart trying to mend, and a bent ear. Enjoy the listen.—Justin Wells, singer / songwriter
Full of should-have-saids and self portraits, Wil Gibson’s newest collection gives a vivid look at the life he has lead. It is harsh. It is visceral. Most importantly, it is truth. Harvest the Dirt captures the purest of moments and the most honest of self-reflections through remembrances and images of an universal truth about the America we live in. It is an insightful read of contemporary poetry in an unrestricted and accessible tongue.—Katrina K. Guarascio, Swimming with Elephants Publications
Wil Gibson
(NPS 2015)
video: Button Poetry



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