Author: Child Made of Sand and To the Left of Time
“Crystal Gibbins’ poignant and quietly intense poems give lie to ‘You can’t go home again.’ You can. It is changed, but you can go back. And we are changed, as readers, by these wildly articulate poems which speak like a woman, or a man, leaning towards you, across from you, with something urgent and true to say.”
Author: Mean/Time and Nowhere All At Once
“Crystal Spring Gibbins celebrates 'this wide open they call the heartland, / this place in the middle,' yet the speaker in these poems is often standing on the edge of things: an island, a border, the banks of the Red River, the shores of her beloved Lake of the Woods, the fine line between memory and the here and now it has led her to. The poems dare to look into and beyond. They whisper and sing with a zen-like clarity that lives up to the author’s given name.”
“If Mary Oliver and W.S. Merwin wandered the Minnesota-Canadian borderlands and waters, they would write poems that look and sound a lot like Crystal Gibbins’: spare, taut, meditative, and wise. In many ways, Gibbins has taken Oliver’s directive to heart: ‘Pay attention / Be astonished / Tell about it.’ Gibbins knows her territory: she knows its manners and mysteries, allowing us to see ‘the white / bloom of a wave break,’ the ‘barbs on the vane / of a pinion feather,’ and ‘cattails shattering into seed.’ There is a kind of Whitmanesque joy and celebration in her poems. I recommend that you allow Crystal Gibbins to be your travel guide. Follow and learn from her. You will be generously rewarded.”
Author: 31 Mornings in December and 23 Poems
"Set in the Lake of the Woods surrounded by wind, weather, and water, readers encounter history and landscape in Crystal Spring Gibbins’ first full-length collection, Now/Here. Reminiscent of Mary Oliver, many poems use the imperative of prayer or meditation like the opening poem, ‘Credo,’ which serves as an invocation to the land: ‘Let the loons lift. Let the past recede / which owes nothing to memory.’ In most literatures, north is often depicted as a region of hardship and dramatic weather, and Gibbins captures the climate completely with lines like: ‘blood stroke / of lightening’ and ‘the wind so angry / you can’t be.’ A sense of awe and wonder ebbs from landscape to observer.
A spirit of exploration dominates, particularly in the last section where the border between land and water is wonderfully problematic. With over 4,500 islands in the Lake of the Woods region, as well as the demarcation between two countries, drawing a line is an environmental and political act: ‘They stop to rest because the map / in their hands does not translate the path.’ And it is in this boundary of land and lake, past and future, settled and wild, where Now/Here radiates. Several poems in this collection find their genesis in the notebooks of explorers or travelers, but with most regions of the earth charted, Gibbins illustrates that it's the remote and difficult places, which reliably yield secrets and astonishment.
Gibbins knows ecopoetry must be absent of man, as well as urgent. One poem is narrative from the point of view of a river, and other list poems give literal voice to ‘shell’ or ‘fog.’ The eponymous poem, ‘Now/Here,’ placed exactly in the middle of the collection, describes a city encroaching: ‘Let the mechanized diggers / cough and choke, while slowly / working over nature.’ Now/Here is a paradoxically stormy but serene collection that celebrates our increasingly rare and quickly dissolving wild places.”
“These are poems of places and spaces deeply felt and fully lived in. From pine cones to mayflies to pin feathers, from boats on the lake to birds in the Minnesota sky, from the cookstove to the silent meal table, Crystal Gibbins transports us into the extraordinary interiors of things and selves with an assured touch that surprises us at every turn with the wonder of the commonplace turned magical, mystical and almost mythical, where everything becomes part of one grand and multifaceted natural history museum. These poems both meditate and mediate, conducting us into little moments of personal delight and private grief while drawing us irrevocably nearer one another. In reminding us that in one way or another we all share transactions like these, Gibbins reminds us, too, of just how narrow and fragile is the line that divides ecstasy from nothingness, flood from fallow. A stunning collection!”
"Crystal Gibbins’ gorgeous new book contains poems about poems and painting, bits of found poems, lists, and lovely lines. She writes in ways that exactly place humans in the natural world. The reader suddenly sees a 'diaspora of pine cones' or 'wind mean as bleach,' images that lap out endlessly until their ripples fill the pond. Crystal Gibbins is a stunning poet!”
Professor Emeritus, UNL
“Canadian-American poet Gibbins lives in Wisconsin, where her book Now/Here was the runner-up for the Edna Meudt Poetry Book Award from the Council for Wisconsin Writers. She is the founder and editor of Split Rock Review, a wilderness-themed literary journal. Gibbins’s poems focus heavily on her Midwestern surroundings, and she recently edited a poetry collection about the Great Lakes.
Gibbins’s scenic inspiration lushly underlies her poem “Because the Night You Asked,” about the speaker accepting a marriage proposal. She illustrates a moon that “shined like a quarter in the sky” and leaves “the color of wine at our feet.” She also invokes the connection that the speaker and her partner have developed through nature. She writes, “in your arms my heart grows / plump as a finch” and “we both love the snow, / the ice, the feeling of a long deadening / freeze and the mercy of a thaw.” These descriptions spotlight a common theme—the connection between love and nature—but do so in a fresh, unique way.”