Robert Gibbons “paints so many different shades of color it becomes an art exhibit,” according to author Leokadia Durmaj. The author of Close to the Tree (Three Rooms Press, 2012), Gibbons has studied with such master poets as Cornelius Eady, Marilyn Nelson, Kimiko Hahn, and Nathalie Handal, and has been published in numerous anthologies. In celebration of Black History Month, we sat down with Robert for some insight into his remarkable career.
3RP: The title of your book of poems with Three Rooms Press is Close to the Tree. Which books and authors took root in your mind early on, and which poets are you inspired by today?
I have always been a fan of Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, but as I read more and increased my exposure with craft, it would incorporate Mary Oliver, Patricia Smith, and Charles Simic. Some books I have read lately are: Jack Straws, Walking the Black Cat, The Temple of My Father, and Devotions.
As you’ve seen your career as a writer blossom, where have you found the strength to believe your own voice?
I think the greatest evolution in voice would be to really listen to yourself in private and performance space; be able to accept criticism from the public in order to grow, and really believe in who you are as a writer.
So now that this belief has grown and solidified, what do you think will be the best way for you to continue the cycle and pass along that strength from your tree?
I thought about this idea of a tree. I remember going to Oregon and seeing an unusual tree in the center of the forest – to me that represented the center of nature. Then I equated this tree with our hearts. The way our hearts are the center of our bodies, our hearts have to continue to nourish the body, continue to send oxygen to other parts, and finally give to the rest of the forest.
And what’s in the future for Robert Gibbons?
The future seems to be open. I do want to podcast and broadcast. I do want to find voice whether scholarly or popular but I am open to the world of possibility.